Harlingen PD answers Uvalde’s call for backup help

HARLINGEN — Like Sgt. Larry Moore, the first group of Harlingen police officers is helping Uvalde’s shattered residents bury their dead.

On Tuesday, Police Chief Michael Kester sent Moore and three other officers to Uvalde to help residents bury victims of the May 24 massacre that left 19 students and two teachers dead at Robb Elementary School.

”For the community, it’s a very quiet, somber feeling. It’s still in shock,” Moore said Wednesday. “We’ve had a couple of funerals this morning. So far, we’ve had two. Yesterday, they had two or three as well.”

As part of the city’s first group of volunteers, Sgt. Tanya Sandoval and canine officers Joseph Zajicek and Oscar Izaguirre are working 12-hour shifts at what remains a crime scene, said Irma Garza, Harlingen’s spokesperson.

“These families are grieving, so they want their privacy,” Moore said. “There’s a lot of media — we do crowd control. We help with the traffic. We have been assisting a lot of agencies up here — whatever they need. The residents thank us for being here helping. They are very welcoming.”

Call for help

On Tuesday, Uvalde officials called for back up.

“They put out a call for help,” Garza said. “Uvalde is a small town. Their police department is small. They’re overwhelmed. It’s still a crime scene.”

Here at the police department, Kester’s planning to send officers to the scene through June 16, when residents are expected to bury the last victim.

Now, he’s getting ready to send the department’s second group of officers.

“The plan is to switch them out every four days,” Garza said. “Our officers are going to relieve other officers. They’re working 12-hour shifts wherever they’re needed. We’re glad we’re in a position where we’re able to help. This is the Valley way. This is the American way. We step up every time, even if it’s a small, little help in their time of need.”

Prayer vigil

Meanwhile, city officials are working with Pastor Pepe Cervantes of Lifeline Heart of Worship Church to hold a prayer vigil supporting the shooting’s victims, their families and the Uvalde community, Garza said.

The vigil is set for 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Lon C. Hill Destination Park at 1216 Fair Park Blvd.