This story is part of a KXAN series of reports called “Stop Mass Shootings,” providing context and exploring solutions surrounding gun violence in the wake of the deadly Uvalde school shooting. We want our reports to be a resource for Texans, as well as for lawmakers who are convening a month after the events in Uvalde to discuss how the state should move forward. Explore all “Stop Mass Shootings” stories by clicking here.
AUSTIN (KXAN)– “Whenever she was born, I knew that my life wasn’t about me anymore, it was about her,” said Alfred Garza III.
He lost his only child, 10-year-old Amerie Jo Garza, in the Uvalde school shooting about two weeks ago.
KXAN initially spoke with Garza the night of the tragedy — when he still didn’t know if his little girl was alive.
Garza said the hardest part of grieving, since then, has been seeing his daughter for the first time… in her casket.
“That was the reality check of it,” he said. “‘Hey, this– this is it right here.’ You know, that was the hardest part. That was harder than putting her in the ground.”
In a letter today, Governor Greg Abbott said preventing the “same tragic ending” means prioritizing active shooter training for “school-based law enforcement.”
The letter was sent to the executive director of Texas State University’s Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center, or ALERRT Center.
In it, Abbott directed Pete Blair to debrief all Texas schools on the Uvalde school shooting and deploy active shooter training to all school districts.
He wants it to start before the next school year begins.
Blair told KXAN he believes the governor wants them to begin training, in general, which they are already doing– not necessarily begin training for each school district. He said that is not realistic; they’re already booked through the summer and if a school district hasn’t already scheduled training, they won’t get one.
“There’s no way for us to get to all of them,” Blair said.
According to the TEA, Texas has more than 1,200 public school districts, open-enrollment charter schools, juvenile justice districts, Texas School For the Blind and Visually Impaired, and Texas School For the Deaf.
“It’s highly illogical that something like this could be rolled out across thousands of Texas schools,” said David DeMatthews, a school safety expert at the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education.
Blair also said the center won’t be reaching out to all school districts for training and that districts will have to reach out to them to get something scheduled.
Blair said the governor’s new directive does mean, however, that they’ll change prioritization, making sure school-related officers go to the front of the line for training, including school district officers, and officers part of a police department or sheriff’s office who are assigned to schools.
He also said if there are open seats in any ALERRT training classes, school officers will get them, first.
He said their training is not for school personnel, only for law enforcement.
He also said the state has been partially funding ALERRT since 2002 and while he thinks that may increase with this directive, the governor has not provided any additional funding, yet.
DeMatthews said while more police training is necessary, it’s not enough without some kind of gun reform.
“I think we’re in a very illogical moment right now when we’re not talking about guns and removing guns from… dangerous individuals,” he said. “A shooter enters a building and begins to fire: It doesn’t matter how fast the police respond in that situation, you still are going to have students and teachers being killed, right? So, this is also just diverting attention away again, from the gun problem that we have.”
“They’re becoming easily accessible to people that should not have them, right. So, I mean, obviously, that’s the area that needs to change,” he said. “Training, 100% I agree with that. That’s a good stepping stone.”
A little girl with big courage: Amerie Jo’s final moments
In bits and pieces, through others’ narratives and media reports, Garza has been finding out what his daughter’s final moments were like.
“My understanding of Amery’s final moments were she wasn’t as scared because she thought it was just a drill,” Garza said.
He said once the kids realized the active shooter was real, his daughter tried to call 911. That’s when she was shot, her grandma told NBC News.
“Hopefully, it was short-lived, and she didn’t suffer from it, but I’m very proud to know that… she took action,” Garza said. “She thought about others before she thought about herself in that moment.”
He said he never saw that side of Amerie Jo, a social butterfly.
“She liked to talk to everybody. She likes to talk a lot. Period,” Garza remembered.
But he’s not surprised by his daughter’s courage.
“I’m really honored to have had my daughter take action, even– even knowing that she was probably scared out of her mind,” he said. “She was able to compose herself and act accordingly and try to get help in there for her and her friends.”
And even though Amerie Jo isn’t here, anymore, his life will still always be about her.
“My main goal is to number one, honor my daughter, and to live the life that she can’t live anymore. And number two is to be an advocate for change,” Garza said.