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The mother of an Uvalde victim reacts to the DOJ report on the shooting

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

And now we turn to Kimberly Mata-Rubio. Her 10-year-old daughter, Lexi, was one of the 19 students killed at Robb Elementary School that day. We've spoken with Kimberly a number of times on this program in the months since the shooting about her daughter and what her family has been going through. Kimberly, it's good to talk with you again.

KIMBERLY MATA-RUBIO: Thank you for having me.

SUMMERS: I mean, I have to imagine that today is a hard day on top of hard days for you, your husband, Felix, and your kids. And I know that you were at today's Justice Department briefing. What went through your mind as you heard the details of all the failures that happened that day?

MATA-RUBIO: I think we as the families, since the body camera footage was released, have known that there was a massive failure on May 24, 2022. But hearing the U.S. Attorney General say this, now the world knows, too. And no one can hide from it.

SUMMERS: This is an extensive report, more than 500 pages all said. So I understand that you, the other families, have not had a chance to read or digest the entire thing. But in what you have seen, is there anything that is particularly meaningful to you?

MATA-RUBIO: Some of the quotes by the officers and the instructions not to go into rooms 111, 112 were very hard to read. I was not aware that the crime scene was compromised. That was something I was learning for the first time. And I hope to get a chance to read the report in its entirety in the next few days. So I want to know more about that.

SUMMERS: One thing that we heard from some other parents today was that while the names of some of the law enforcement officers who failed to act that day were published in this report, others were not. Why is that important - naming those law enforcement officers?

MATA-RUBIO: I think it's important because the community needs to be familiar with who was at fault so they can make decisions themselves and so that we can have accountability. Also, my daughter is listed in this report. She's listed because she was murdered in her fourth grade classroom. She lost the right to privacy. Why do they have the right to privacy?

SUMMERS: As you mentioned, Attorney General Merrick Garland is there in Uvalde, and we heard him earlier describing this law enforcement response as a failure. He also spoke to families. What did he say to you and the other families?

MATA-RUBIO: He greeted us each personally before the start of the briefing on Wednesday night. For me, he came up, and he saw that I was wearing my Saint Mary's sweater. And he said that he noticed that Lexi had her T-shirt on in her mural, and we discussed her scholarship and her aspirations to be a lawyer one day. He was very emotional when he addressed us as a group. And I really appreciate him coming down and saying what this community needed to hear. Law enforcement response was a failure.

SUMMERS: Was there anything that you wish that Garland or other Justice Department officials there in Uvalde had said today that they did not say?

MATA-RUBIO: No. I also appreciated that he spoke on, even though it's not listed in the report, the failure by the federal government to have gun legislation in place. That's how we got here. That's how we continue to have these incidents occur.

SUMMERS: I mean, we have conversations, unfortunately, like this in the wake of shootings all across this country - in movie theaters and schools and towns big and small. What do you hope will happen next now that all of these details have been made public in this extensive report from the Justice Department?

MATA-RUBIO: I hope at the local level that there is accountability for the individuals who are at fault. I hope the DA pushes forward for criminal prosecutions. But I also hope that this serves as a reminder to other communities and law enforcement agencies that this can happen to them and that they should prepare. And even more than that, I hope that Americans wake up and realize that we don't have to live this way and that we should be taking a more proactive response.

SUMMERS: Many of the details of the faulty police response described by Attorney General Garland as a failure - they've already been made public. So I'm curious. For you personally, how does it feel now that after all this time, these details are accounted for in a federal report?

MATA-RUBIO: It's hard to read. But, I mean, it's necessary. And everybody needs to be looking at this report, reading it in detail and following recommendations.

SUMMERS: I want to ask you - it's been some months since we last spoke. This day has to be excruciating. How are you and your family doing?

MATA-RUBIO: Supporting each other. You know, the kids - they were at school, and it's business as usual. And I tell my older ones not to read the news when I know something's coming out to protect them. You know, you have to go and hear all of this information and to do, you know, media. And then my kids get home from school, and we're going to rush to Bandera to go see my daughter play basketball. And I have to be present for them.

SUMMERS: Yeah. When you and I last spoke, you were running for mayor of Uvalde. And when we talked, you told me then that people in your community that you were talking to - as you were knocking on doors, they wanted to move forward. And you also told me that you felt that people needed to heal. Today, do you think that this accounting of what happened at Robb Elementary school - do you think having this all laid out in this manner helps Uvalde move forward to the kind of healing that you talked about?

MATA-RUBIO: I think it's a step in the right direction. I think it is some answers that we've had questions to. But ultimately, the steps afterward and what our local officials do with this information is going to dictate where we go from here.

SUMMERS: Kimberly Mata-Rubio, thank you so much for talking with us today.

MATA-RUBIO: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF STORMZY SONG, "FIRE + WATER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.