MISSION — As police responded to a deadly school shooting 1,700 miles away in California on Thursday, Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office instructor Ricardo R. Garcia educated parents at Sharyland High School about active shooter awareness.
Also on the same day that several people were killed and injured in the shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, El Paso’s Cielo Vista Walmart, where 22 people were killed in an active shooter incident on Aug. 3, reopened its doors for the first time since the incident.
While the Rio Grande Valley has been spared from these shootings, that doesn’t mean parents, students and school officials shouldn’t talk about them, Garcia stressed.
Garcia gave a brief history of school shootings, notably how the deadliest incident, the 1927 Bath School massacre that claimed the lives of 38 schoolchildren and six adults, involved the use of bombs in addition to guns.
He proceeded to explain the evolution of police training when it comes to active shooters through two incidents: 1999’s Columbine shooting and 2007’s Virginia Tech shooting.
After showing a clip taken from a student’s cellphone during the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018, parents were horrified — some tearing up.
This also sparked a discussion between Garcia and parents in attendance about Sharyland’s own safety measures.
“I don’t want to see the day where a school looks like a prison,” Garcia said.
Several parents asked why certain precautions are not reinforced, such as the addition of metal detectors in schools.
“But if they install metal detectors, the children will feel safer that nobody’s going to be able to get in,” one parent said.
But Garcia explained that guns can still be snuck through metal detectors.
“You guys want a police officer in each school? With metal detectors and all kinds of stuff,” Garcia asked after parents followed up with suggestions for potential solutions.
Garcia said, “I’m not free. That police officer is not free. That metal detector is not free. So when it comes up and they say, ‘Hey, we’re going to raise taxes’ — OK. You want it, you’re going to pay for it. This isn’t a charity. See, the community doesn’t think about that.”
Returning to the presentation, Garcia proceeded to inform the parents the procedures to take in case they find themselves in an active shooter situation.
Parents raised their hands to encourage Garcia to spread his information to the parents who were not able to attend Thursday’s meeting.
“We need to do better,” Garcia urged. “I want to do this class again in six months, but I want to do it in the Mission Convention Center — where we can fit 2,000.”