Cindy Ord/Getty Matthew McConaughey
After Tuesday's mass shooting at Robb Elementary School that killed 21 people — including 19 students and two adults — the Academy Award winner, 52, paid a visit to the community with Rep. Tony Gonzales on Friday at Uvalde Civic Center, PEOPLE has confirmed. During the visit, he met with families and those affected by the tragedy, including parents who lost their kids during the shooting.
"Thank you Matthew for helping to heal our community. Your visit brought so many smiling faces to Uvalde. See you soon my friend," Gonzales, 41, wrote on Twitter, also sharing photos of the visit.
McConaughey's trip came after he shared a heartfelt statement in response to the attack. "Once again, we have tragically proven that we are failing to be responsible for the rights our freedoms grant us," he wrote in part.
This week was a solemn reminder that evil exists in the world, but we will never let it break us. We’ll unite to be an even more powerful reminder that love never fails & together we can change things.
Appreciate Uvalde native Matthew McConaughey helping us heal. #UvaldeUnited pic.twitter.com/2LwZPbuVNX
— Tony Gonzales (@TonyGonzales4TX) May 27, 2022
"This is an epidemic we can control, and whichever side of the aisle we may stand on, we all know we can do better. We must do better," McConaughey added. "Action must be taken so that no parent has to experience what the parents in Uvalde and the others before them have endured."
The Dazed and Confused actor was born in Uvalde, where he lived for much of his childhood. His mother Kay McCabe taught at St. Philip's Episcopal School, about a mile away from Robb Elementary.
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On Wednesday, he signed an executive order on policing and public safety and pushed for "commonsense gun reforms."
"As a nation, I think we all must be there for them," Biden said. "And we must ask: When in God's name will we do what needs to be done to, if not completely stop, fundamentally change the amount of the carnage that goes on in this country?"
The director of the Texas Department of Public Safety has said that Chief of Police Pete Arredondo made the "wrong decision" in not confronting the shooter until more than 40 minutes after he entered the school.
"From the benefit of hindsight where I'm sitting now, of course, it was not the right decision," Col. Steven McCraw told reporters. "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."
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One police officer told PEOPLE that they stood outside the school for more than an hour, waiting for a signal to go in and neutralize the gunman.
Uvalde Leader News
"There was almost a mutiny," he said. "We were like, 'There's a f—ing gunman in the school, we hear gunshots, and we're just going to stand here with our thumbs up our a—es?' We wanted to go in and save lives. It was the most frustrating situation of my entire career."
Following the shooting, Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Democrat from a nearby district, penned a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, requesting an investigation into conflicting reports given by police.
In the letter, Castro asked the bureau to "use its maximum authority to thoroughly examine the timeline of events and the law enforcement response."
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The shooter, who has been identified as Uvalde resident Salvador Ramos, 18, was found dead at the scene after abandoning his vehicle nearby and entering the school at around 11:30 a.m. local time.
Before arriving at the school, Ramos shot his grandmother at her residence, and she was subsequently airlifted to a hospital.
The school district in Uvalde has opened an official account with First State Bank of Uvalde to support Robb Elementary families affected by the tragedy. People can send checks through the mail (payable to the "Robb School Memorial Fund") or donate money through Zelle to firstname.lastname@example.org. People can also donate by calling 830-356-2273.