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Justice Department to conduct review of police response to Uvalde mass shooting

The head of Texas DPS says the incident commander made the “wrong decision” to not order officers to breach the classroom more quickly to confront the gunman.

WASHINGTON D.C., DC — U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced a team will conduct a critical incident review of the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

Garland said the goal of the review is to provide an independent account of law enforcement actions and response, identify lessons learned and best practices to help first responders prepare for active shooter events.

The attorney general stressed that this is not a criminal investigation.

Garland said the review will be handled by the department's Office of Community Oriented Police Services, or COPS Office.

"Nothing can undo the pain that has been inflicted on the loved ones of victims, the survivors, and the entire community of Uvalde," the attorney general said. "But the Justice Department can and will use its expertise and independence to assess what happened and to provide guidance moving forward."

Garland said he will meet with both officials with the Justice Department and external experts to review the police response to the shooting that left 21 dead at Robb Elementary School, including 19 students and two teachers more than two weeks ago.

The team includes:

  • Chief Rick Braziel, retired, Sacramento, Calif.
  • Deputy Chief Gene Deisinger, retired. Coral Gables, Fla.
  • Albert Guarnieri, FBI Unit Chief
  • Major Mark Lomax, retired, Pennsylvania State Police, Pa.
  • Laura McElroy, CEO, McElroy Media Group
  • Sheriff John Mina, Orange County, Fla.
  • April Naturale, assistant vice president, Vibrant Emotional Health
  • Chief Kristne Ziman, retired, Aurora, Ill.

Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin released the following statement on the Justice Department review:

“I want to thank United States Attorney General Merrick Garland, Unites States Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, and the Department of Justice on the swift action to begin the Critical Incident Review at my request on the horrific tragedy at Robb Elementary School. 

"This assessment and the findings are of the utmost importance to the victims and their families, the community of Uvalde, and the Country. The city will fully cooperate with the Department of Justice and will assist with coordinating as necessary with other local entities as needed for this review. 

"I trust the assessment will be fair and transparent. Our grieving families and our community deserve answers to all their questions.”

The announcement comes on the same day as families of victims and survivors from the Uvalde and Buffalo mass shooting testify before Congressional committee on gun violence.

The announcement of the review comes a day after Uvalde ISD Police Chief Pete Arredondo did not show up for his first meeting as an elected member of the Uvalde City Council.

Steven McCraw, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, has said Arredondo, who was in charge of the multi-agency response on May 24, made the “wrong decision” to not order officers to breach the classroom more quickly to confront the gunman.

RELATED: Watch Live: Families of victims and survivors of Uvalde, Buffalo mass shootings testify before Congress

The gunman, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, spent roughly 80 minutes inside Robb Elementary, and more than an hour passed from when the first officers followed him into the building and when he was killed, according to an official timeline. In the meantime, parents outside begged police to rush in and panicked children called 911 from inside.

Arredondo has not responded to repeated interview requests and questions from The Associated Press.

RELATED: Uvalde CISD Police Chief Pete Arredondo had his first opportunity to act as an elected official. He didn't show up.

After the City Council meeting, Alfred Garza III, whose 10-year-old daughter, Amerie Jo, was among the Uvalde students killed, told reporters that he attended the meeting to see what else he could learn about what happened that day.

“I have so many questions and not every one can be answered. They’re still collecting data, they’re still collecting information on what happened,” Garza said.

He said he had been curious as to whether Arredondo would attend the meeting, and said he had “mixed feelings” about the district police chief's absence.

“He obviously didn’t show up for a reason,” Garza said, adding that he assumed Arredondo thought if he did appear he would get a lot of questions.

Garza said he doesn’t have “a lot of ill will” toward Arredondo, nor does he blame just one person for what happened, but he does think more could have been done that day.

“They did take a long time to get in there,” Garza said.

Since the shooting, there have been tensions between state and local authorities over how police handled the shooting and communicated what happened to the public.

The Texas Department of Public Safety has begun referring questions about the investigation to the Uvalde-area district attorney, Christina Mitchell Busbee. She hasn't responded to repeated interview requests and questions from AP.

McLaughlin said he has asked officials for a briefing but “we're not getting it.”

He said the city's police chief was on vacation at the time of the shooting and that the acting city police commander was on the scene.

Also on Tuesday, actor Matthew McConaughey, who is from Uvalde, made the rounds of Senate offices before heading to the White House to open the daily briefing. McConaughey, who earlier this year considered a run for governor of Texas, gave a speech on the importance of taking legislative action “to make the loss of these lives matter.”

“We want secure and safe schools and we want gun laws that won’t make it so easy for the bad guys to get the damn guns,” he said. The 52-year-old actor and his wife drove to Uvalde on the day after the shooting and spent time with some of the victims' families.

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