UVALDE, Texas – The Justice Department said Sunday it will review the law enforcement response to the Texas school shooting, an unusual federal look back prompted by questions about the shifting and at times contradictory information from authorities that have enraged a community in shock and sorrow.
Department spokesman Anthony Coley said the review would be conducted in a fair, impartial and independent manner and the findings would be made public. The announcement came as President Joe Biden was visiting Uvalde, where he and first lady Jill Biden paid their respects at a memorial to the 19 students and two teachers killed at Robb Elementary School on Tuesday.
The goal of the review, which the mayor requested, is “to provide an independent account of law enforcement actions and response that day, and to identify lessons learned and best practices to help first responders prepare for and respond to active shooter events,” Coley said in a statement.
Handling the review is the department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. It was not immediately clear how the review would be conducted, whether law enforcement officials could be compelled to cooperate in the review and when it might be completed.
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin issued this statement late Sunday in regards to the Justice Department’s review:
“Uvalde is suffering unimaginable pain as we prepare to bury the innocent victims of Tuesday’s senseless murders at Robb Elementary School. My focus is helping parents who lost children, children who lost parents, and young survivors navigate through this horrific nightmare. I thank the U.S. Department of Justice for accepting my request to conduct an independent Critical Incident Review of law enforcement’s response to the mass shooting. I trust the assessment will be fair, transparent, and independent. Please pray for Uvalde for the strength to live through the grief, the pain, and the healing process.”
Such a review is somewhat rare and most after-action reports that come after a mass shooting are generally compiled by local law enforcement agencies or outside groups. The Justice Department conducted similar reviews after 14 people were killed in a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, in 2015, and after the mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, the deadliest attack on the LGBTQ community in U.S. history that left 49 people dead and 53 people wounded.
The frustration, anger and questions about the response from police grew deeper on Friday after authorities revealed that despite repeated 911 calls from students and teachers, the school district’s police chief had told more than a dozen officers to wait in a school hallway. Officials said he believed the suspect was barricaded inside adjoining classrooms and that there was no longer an active attack.
The revelation caused more grief and raised new questions about whether more lives were lost because officers did not act faster to stop the gunman, who was ultimately killed by Border Patrol tactical officers.
Biden has not spoken publicly about the police response to the shooting.
Balsamo reported from Washington.
More on the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas: https://apnews.com/hub/school-shootings