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Justice Dept. to review law enforcement response to Uvalde mass shooting

Uvalde prepares for funerals after shooting
Uvalde prepares for funerals after mass shooting 03:47

The Justice Department announced Sunday that it will conduct a critical incident review of the response by law enforcement to the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

The review, which is being undertaken at the behest of Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin, is tasked with providing "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," Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley said in a statement. 

McLaughlin in a statement Sunday night thanked the Justice Department for accepting his request, adding "I trust the assessment will be fair, transparent and independent."

The Office of Community Oriented Policing will carry out the review. This Justice Department office primarily advocates for policing reforms through the use of grants, funding, and other resources, including the COPS grants. The review will likely examine the response to the Uvalde shooting and advise on improving responses to mass shootings — similar Justice Department reviews were conducted after mass shootings in San Bernardino and the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. 

Authorities in Texas spent three days providing often conflicting and incomplete information about the 90 minutes that elapsed between the time the gunman entered the school and when U.S. Border Patrol agents unlocked the classroom door and killed him. Law enforcement officers from local, state and federal entities responded to the Uvalde shooting, 

Nearly 20 officers were standing in the hallway outside the classrooms during the attack on Robb Elementary School for over 45 minutes before agents used a master key to open a door and confront the gunman, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw said at a news conference Friday.

Officers at scene of school shooting in Uvalde, Texas
Children run from the scene of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, 2022. Pete Luna/Uvalde Leader-News

The on-site commander "was convinced at the time that there was no more threat to the children and that the subject was barricaded and that they had time to organize" to get into the classroom, McCraw said.

"Of course it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision," McCraw told reporters.

Earlier Sunday, Rep. Val Demings, who was the Orlando police chief before she was elected to Congress, favored a federal investigation to determine what went wrong in the Uvalde response.

"Since there were so many agencies involved on the ground, it's important that we know what role every agency played," she told "Face the Nation" moderator Margaret Brennan. "It's important that we know, was there any discussion about going in, those 19 offices who we're told were in the hallway, were they any discussion between other commanders from other departments? We must know the answers to those questions. And I think a federal investigation is certainly in order."

Uvalde County Commissioner Ronald Garza welcomed the idea of a federal investigation when he was asked about it hours before it was announced. "I think we need to learn more. As tragic as this may seem, we need to learn from this, you know, and parents deserve answers," he told Brennan on "Face the Nation."

Once the Justice Department concludes the review, it will publish a report with its findings.

Jeff Pegues and Rob Legare contributed to this report.

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