DOJ announces review of law enforcement response to Uvalde school shooting

The Department of Justice said Sunday it will conduct a critical incident review of the police response to the school shooting Tuesday at Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 students and two teachers dead.

“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 goal of the review is 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. The review will be conducted with the Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing,” the statement added.

The announcement came amid heavy scrutiny into law enforcement’s response to the shooting, including questions regarding whether police could have saved lives by neutralizing the shooter quicker.

Citing two senior law enforcement officials, NBC News reported last week that local police initially told federal law enforcement who arrived at the scene of the shooting to wait before entering the school.

“According to the officials, agents from BORTAC, the Customs and Border Protection tactical unit, and ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrived on the scene between noon and 12:15 p.m. on Tuesday. Local law enforcement asked them to wait, and then instructed HSI agents to help pull children out of the windows,” the outlet said.

“The BORTAC team, armed with tactical gear, at first did not move toward the gunman. After approximately 30 minutes passed, however, the federal agents opted of their own volition to lead the ‘stack’ of officers inside the school and take down the shooter,” NBC added.

According to Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw, it was Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Peter Arredondo’s decision not to allow at least 19 law enforcement officers to breach the classroom where all 21 victims were killed.

“Arredondo believed that the shooter had barricaded himself and that the children were not under an active threat, said McCraw at a news conference,” NBC said.

“According to McCraw, Arredondo believed there was no active threat, so instead of sending officers in, he spent time finding keys that would let him into the school. During this time, however, [suspected shooter Salvador] Ramos had unencumbered access to carry out the attack.”

McCraw said waiting was the wrong decision.

“From the benefit of hindsight where I’m sitting now, of course, it was not the right decision. It was a wrong decision. Period. There was no excuse for that,” McCraw said. “There were plenty of officers to do what needed to be done, with one exception, is that the incident commander inside believed he needed more equipment and more officers to do a tactical breach at that time.”

Conservative columnist David French was one of many commentators to criticize police’s response to the shooting.

“They waited,” French wrote Sunday in The Dispatch. “And waited. And waited. Two different girls called 911, begging for help. Their classmates were dead and dying all around them. They were in mortal danger. The first call came at 12:03. That same girl called back at 12:10, at 12:13, and 12:16. A different girl called at 12:19. The final call came at 12:36.”

In his statement, Coley said the DOJ review would be “fair, transparent, and independent.”

“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,” he said.