DOJ announces team to investigate response to the Uvalde school massacre as survivor says more could have been done

“The review will be comprehensive, it will be transparent and it will be independent,” US Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Wednesday.

“We will be assessing what happened that day, we will be doing site visits at the school, we will be conducting interviews of an extremely wide variety of stakeholders, witnesses, families, law enforcement, government officials, school officials and we will be reviewing the resources that were made available in the aftermath.”

The Justice Department traditionally relies on people outside the department with law enforcement expertise and on-the-ground experience with mass-casualty events to participate in reviews.

The department previously conducted such reviews after the 2015 deadly rampage in San Bernardino, California, and after the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida.
The DOJ said the review was requested by Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin, who told reporters Tuesday he welcomed an assessment of how local and state agencies responded during and after the deadliest school shooting in the US since 2012.
McLaughlin cited “some missteps” by the Texas Department of Public Safety in releasing details after the shooting at Robb Elementary School that later turned out to be incorrect — but he quickly added that he was “not blaming anybody.”
“We were told one thing one day, and the next day the narrative changed. You were told for a week that a teacher propped the door open with a rock — and at the end of the week that story was gone, too,” the mayor said.

“We want the truthful answers. We want to be transparent, and we will when it comes out. We have nothing to hide.”

Besides the federal DOJ investigation, Texas state House Rep. Dustin Burrows said DPS members will be among the witnesses at a Uvalde Investigative Committee hearing set for Thursday.

Victims were trapped with the gunman for more than an hour

Children inside the adjoining classrooms where the bloodshed ensued made multiple calls to 911 while officers waited outside the classrooms.

As many as 19 law enforcement officers were inside the school for more than 45 minutes before the suspect was finally killed, the Texas DPS said.

It’s not clear how many of the 21 slain victims could have been saved had police stormed the classrooms sooner.

The incident commander’s hesitation to breach the classroom has been widely criticized and goes against many law enforcement protocols.
More than an hour after the shooting started, the gunman was shot and killed by a Border Patrol tactical response team.
McLaughlin said Tuesday he’s frustrated with the lack of transparency from law enforcement on the investigation.

“I’ve been told that they’re law enforcement and we’re not. We’re not going to be entitled to it,” the mayor said. “I’ve asked everyone involved for a briefing at one point or another.”

The Uvalde school district police chief was the incident commander at the scene and decided not to immediately enter the classroom where the gunman had holed up, Texas DPS Director Col. Steven McCraw said.
That chief, Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, typically leads a police force of six officers. In an interview with CNN, he declined to talk about details of the case, citing the ongoing funerals, and said more information would be released when the “families quit grieving.”
Arredondo, who was elected to the Uvalde city council prior to the massacre, was sworn in last week in a private ceremony.

‘There is no excuse for their actions’

Arnulfo Reyes, a teacher who was shot twice at Robb Elementary, said he was furious about how the tragedy was handled.

“After everything, I get more angry because … I had nothing” for protection, such as a bulletproof vest, Reyes told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
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“You’re supposed to protect and serve … There is no excuse for their actions. And I will never forgive them,” the fourth-grade teacher said.

Describing the first moments of the shooting, Reyes said he and his students heard gunshots and he told them to “get under the table and act like you’re asleep.”

“As they were doing that, and I was gathering them under the table and told them to act like they’re going to sleep, is about the time when I turned around and saw him standing there.”

The gunman opened fire, striking Reyes; one bullet went through his arm and lung, and another hit his back, ABC reported.

Reyes couldn’t move after being shot, he said, and the shooter then turned his gun on the students.

Officers could be heard outside the classroom, and a child in another classroom pleaded for police to help, Reyes said. But Reyes thinks by that time, officers had retired down a hallway, he told ABC.

“One of the students from the next-door classroom was saying, ‘Officer, we’re in here. We’re in here,'” he said. “But they had already left.”

When the Border Patrol unit eventually came inside, “it was just bullets everywhere,” he told ABC.

When asked if he had a message for the students’ parents, Reyes tearfully replied: “I’m sorry. I tried my best from what I was told to do. Please don’t be angry with me.”

He also said change is needed to prevent such school massacres in the future.

“You can give us all the training you want, but … laws have to change,” he said. “It won’t ever change unless they change the laws.”

CNN’s Hannah Rabinowitz, Rebekah Riess, Shimon Prokupecz, Rosa Flores, Rosalina Nieves, Paula Reid, Whitney Wild, Eric Levenson, Jason Hanna, Amanda Musa, Tina Burnside and DJ Judd contributed to this report.


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