Robb Elementary shooting victims’ families prepare for Department of Justice report on law enforcement response

The DOJ report comes 20 months after the shooting took 21 lives at Robb Elementary.

UVALDE – Nearly two years after the horrific shooting at Robb Elementary, the U.S. Department of Justice is finished with its law enforcement report.

The DOJ’s Critical Incident Review was privately presented to the families of the 21 victims Wednesday evening before being released to the public Thursday.

The nation’s top law enforcement officer, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, was in Uvalde Wednesday just before the public release of the Critical Incident Review of the shooting at Robb.

“Part of the reason we did this report was to make sure people all over the country know what the right thing to do is and the right way to do it,” Garland said.

In the days after the school shooting, then-mayor Don McLaughlin asked the DOJ to review law enforcement’s response to the shooting.

Monday night, Uvalde CISD superintendent Ashley Chohlis announced the report would be released.

“The U.S. Department of Justice notified me today they will be releasing their critical incident report for May 24 on Thursday. This Thursday, Jan. 18, in the afternoon,” Chohlis told the school board and the members of the community who attended the meeting.

Chohlis said the district would have additional counseling services available for students and staff at its campuses when the report is released.

Nicole Henderson, the director of recovery services for UCISD, detailed what that would look like.

“We’ll have our regular campus staff available, and we will contact our community-based counselors as well to be available on campus as needed. Right now, they’re asked to just be on standby,” Henderson said at Monday’s meeting.

While we don’t know what the report will include, the DOJ announced it had conducted more than 200 interviews and reviewed nearly 13,000 pieces of evidence last April.

In July 2022, a Texas House Investigative Committee report explained that 376 officers from nearly two dozen agencies responded to the shooting at Robb Elementary. It went on to explain there were failures in the school’s safety protocols, and the shooter gave warnings about the impending attack.

Berlinda Arreola, step-grandmother to Amerie Jo Garza, and Brett Cross, Uziyah Garcia’s guardian, hope the DOJ’s report details who is responsible for the failure to act in the 77 minutes it took to take down the gunman.

“I’m hoping that it’s different from every one of the other reports that have came out, and then nothing has happened. I’m hoping that it will light a fire up under the DA to actually get out and do something,” Cross said.

KSAT stopped by Uvalde County District Attorney Christina Mitchell’s office for a comment but was told she was in court all day.

In December, it was confirmed that the DA would not be seating a grand jury before the spring of 2024, edging closer to the two-year mark of the shooting at Robb Elementary.

Arreola and Cross say there’s a mix of emotions with the DOJ’s report and what closure it could bring, if any.

“If the recommendations are in there for charges to be filed, are they going to be filed? That is the question,” Arreola said.

She has described this report as a baby step on their path to healing, but they’ll forever be stuck on May 24, 2022.

On Thursday, Merrick B. Garland, Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, and Director Hugh Clements, Jr. of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) will hold a press conference to go over its review at 1:30 p.m.

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About the Authors

Leigh Waldman is an investigative reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

Joe Arredondo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.

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