DOJ to investigate Uvalde school shooting at mayor’s request; Bidens mourn with families

An officer walks outside of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, 2022. - An 18-year-old gunman killed 18 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Texas on Tuesday, according to the state's governor, in the nation's deadliest school shooting in years. | ALLISON DINNER/AFP via Getty Images

The Justice Department said Sunday it will investigate law enforcement's response to last week's mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

The announcement came as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden visited Robb Elementary School, where 19 children and two teachers were killed. Responding police officers have received criticism over an alleged lengthy delay in entering the building. 

"At the request of Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin, the U.S. Department of Justice will conduct a Critical Incident Review of the law enforcement response to the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24," DOJ spokesperson Anthony Coley said in a statement.

The review, to be conducted with the department's Office of Community Oriented Policing, will provide an "independent account of law enforcement actions and responses that day" and "identify lessons learned and best practices to help first responders prepare for and respond to active shooter events."

"As with prior Justice Department after-action reviews of mass shootings and other critical incidents, this assessment will be fair, transparent, and independent," Coley said. "The Justice Department will publish a report with its findings at the conclusion of its review."

The suspect, an 18-year-old Latino male, entered a fourth-grade classroom and killed 19 schoolchildren and two teachers last Tuesday.

About 80 Border Patrol agents responded to the shooting. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Border Patrol Tactical Unit couldn't access the classroom because of a steel door and cinder block construction. The gunman also reportedly shot through the door and walls.  

Department of Public Safety South Texas Regional Director Victor Escalon said last week that the shooter was in the school's hallways at 11:40 a.m. and started firing. He was killed by the agents more than an hour later at 12:58 p.m., which had led to severe criticism of law enforcement's response.

Additionally, the shooter reportedly fired his weapon across the street from the school for several minutes before entering the building. 

The officer in charge on the scene, identified as Uvalde Police Chief Pete Arredondo, believed that the shooter was "a barricaded suspect" and that no children were at risk. But Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said that 911 calls show students inside classrooms 111 and 112 called 911 requesting help. 

"From the benefit of hindsight where I'm sitting now, of course it was not the right decision," McCraw said at a news conference on Friday. 

During their visit to Uvalde, the Bidens walked along a row of photos of the victims. They paused in-between to touch the images and placed flowers at a makeshift memorial. They were joined by local officials and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

The couple also met privately with families of victims, survivors, paramedics, mental health services providers, firefighters and law-enforcement officials, according to a pool report. 

The Bidens also attended Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral Church with over 600 people. The service was led by Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller.

President Biden didn't give a speech at the church.

Fr. Eduardo Morales spoke about Jesus leaving Earth and rising to Heaven after the crucifixion, according to Time magazine. He said that while Jesus' disciples would never know Jesus in flesh and blood again, they would know him spiritually. 

"We must share this with the families of those who have lost a loved one this week," Morales was quoted as saying. "The ones that we have lost will always be with us … as we continue to talk about them, they continue to live."

Services were also held in three other churches in the area — Primera Iglecia Bautista, St. Philip's Episcopal Church and Templo Cristiano (Christian Temple) — the sermons were about forgiveness and resurrection.

Ellie Garcia, one of the victims of last Tuesday's shooting, was to recite a Bible verse, Deuteronomy 6:18, during the Sunday worship service at Primera Iglecia Bautista, Time reported. 

"Do what is right and good in the Lord's sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors," the verse reads.

Uvalde is a devout town, with 85% of its residents identifying as Christian, according to a Public Religion Research Institute 2020 Census of American Religion, Time noted.

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