“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 spokesman Anthony Coley said in a statement.
The massacre, America’s deadliest school shooting since the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, has been followed by conflicting official accounts of how it unfolded. The delayed police confrontation with the mass shooter has compounded parents’ anger, with some saying a quicker response could have saved children’s lives.
CNN has reported that the response by law enforcement in Uvalde ran contrary to commonly taught active shooter protocol, established after the Columbine school shooting of 1999, to stop the shooter as quickly as possible and even bypass helping the injured. While the gunman was inside adjoining classrooms, a group of 19 law enforcement officers stood outside the classroom in the school for roughly 50 minutes as they waited for room keys and tactical equipment, CNN has reported. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Friday that he is demanding a full accounting of what happened during the school shooting, saying he had been initially “misled” about certain information he was given by law enforcement officials leading the investigation into the attack.
“My expectation is the law enforcement leaders that are leading the investigations … they get to the bottom of every fact with absolute certainty,” the Republican governor said at a news conference in Uvalde.
The Justice Department review aims “to provide an independent account of law enforcement actions and responses that day, and to identify lessons learned and best practices to help first responders prepare for and respond to active shooter events,” said Conley, the DOJ spokesman.
“The review will be conducted with the Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing,” he added. “As with prior Justice Department after-action reviews of mass shootings and other critical incidents, this assessment will be fair, transparent, and independent. The Justice Department will publish a report with its findings at the conclusion of its review.”
The DOJ’s announcement came the same day President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden traveled to Uvalde, where they visited a makeshift memorial to the 21 victims outside Robb Elementary School. The President and first lady also met with family members of the young victims and first responders during their visit to Texas.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Merrick Garland, addressing graduates at Harvard’s commencement ceremony on Sunday, spoke briefly about the massacre, saying: “As we gather today to celebrate this milestone in your life, we are also holding on to an enormous amount of grief because of yet another mass shooting at another school in our country.”
“An unspeakable act of violence has devastated families and an entire community in Uvalde, Texas. I know I speak for all of us here that our hearts are broken,” Garland said.
This story has been updated with additional details Sunday.
CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez, Eric Levenson, Virginia Langmaid, Shimon Prokupecz, Nora Neus, Kevin Liptak, Arlette Saenz and Devan Cole contributed to this report.