Jose Flores, Jr. wanted to be a police officer when he grew up — and now his uncle is slamming the police officers who stood around while his nephew died.
“He wanted to protect people,” says the 10-year-old’s uncle, Christopher Salazar, 33. “He wanted to be an officer to protect and serve people — and not like the officers here in Uvalde.”
Salazar’s nephew is one of 19 children who lost their lives Tuesday in the deadly shooting at Robb Elementary, a mass shooting that also killed two teachers. Now Salazar, like many, is angry at the response of law enforcement.
“They didn’t even protect him. They had all these officers be there and none of these officers went in,” Salazar says. “The cops here, they were all [too] scared to go in there.”
While the shooter was inside a classroom, approximately 20 officers waited in a hallway for more than 45 minutes, Col. Steven McCraw, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said at a Friday press conference, during which he admitted that law enforcement made the wrong decision. McCraw said that the commander on the scene believed that the gunman had barricaded himself into an empty classroom, and that no children were at risk.
“From the benefit of hindsight where I’m sitting now, of course, it was not the right decision,” McCraw said. “It was a wrong decision. There’s no excuse for that. We believe there should have been an entry as soon as you can. When there’s an active shooter, the rules change.”
Salazar heard the gunshots from his home down the street and rushed to the school. “I had a bad feeling,” he tells PEOPLE. Frustrated, he watched as law enforcement officers waited outside and kept parents from entering the school building.
“I saw people yelling and going crazy looking for their kids,” he says.
Salazar had promised to pick his nephew up from school that day. He often picked Jose up and took him out for hot Cheetos, slushies and wings. Or they would go fishing or swimming in the river. Jose was a Houston Astros fan and wore number 6 on his baseball team.
“He was a good kid,” Salazar remembers. “He was a happy kid.”
Salazar couldn’t find his nephew anywhere, and he says the police were unhelpful.
“The cops kept on saying he was on the bus. He was on the bus. We went looking for the bus. We did not find the bus,” Salazar says. “We never saw him. We were praying and praying. I saw a little kid, it looked exactly like him, with a cap on. It wasn’t him. And that’s what made me more sad, because that was the last bus.
Salazar visited local hospitals and the police station. No one knew where his nephew was.
“We went everywhere. We did not find him. And all of a sudden his dad went to the hospital because they said there were more kids,” Salazar remembers. “His dad called me to go over there. When I showed up, they told both of us that he had passed away and that we couldn’t even see his body because it was too bad. Like it wasn’t a body to see, for a dad and uncle to see.”
He thinks if law enforcement took action sooner, his nephew might still be alive.
“He was a loving kid, and he never grew up to be something,’ Salazar says. “He always wanted to be a cop and he never got to do that.”
Governor Abbott, the Uvalde police department, and every republican refusing to address stricter gun laws have the blood of these kids on their hands. It’s unacceptable.