UVALDE, Texas (NewsNation) — President Joe Biden arrived in Uvalde on Sunday as the federal government promised a review of the shooting — the Department of Justice will review local and federal authorities’ responses to the elementary-school massacre.
Department spokesperson Anthony Coley stated that Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin had asked the department to conduct a Critical Incident Review.
“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,” Coley said in a statement. “The review will be conducted with the Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing.
“As with prior Justice Department after-action reviews of mass shootings and other critical incidents, this assessment will be fair, transparent, and independent,” Coley stated. “The Justice Department will publish a report with its findings at the conclusion of its review.”
Shortly before the announcement, Uvalde County Commissioner Ronald Garza told CBS News’s “Face the Nation” that he supports such an investigation. “I think we need to learn more,” he said. “As tragic as this may seem, we need to learn from this, you know, and parents deserve answers.”
Meanwhile, San Antonio-based University Hospital offered an update on Sunday on three patients who were impacted by the shooting. The hospital said there is a 66-year-old woman in fair condition, a 10-year-old girl in serious condition, and a 9-year-old girl in good condition.
This announcement came close to the same moment when Biden and first lady Jill Biden visited the victims’ memorial site at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, paying their respects to the grief-stricken town affected by the mass shooting that killed 19 students and two teachers.
Outside Robb Elementary School, Biden stopped at a memorial of 21 white crosses — one for each of those killed — and the first lady added a bouquet of white flowers to a pile in front of the school sign. They viewed individual altars erected in memory of each student, and the first lady touched the children’s photos as the couple moved along the row.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also paid respects at the memorial on Sunday, receiving some boos and jeers from the crowd.
“Please, Governor Abbott, help Uvalde County.” A man shouted from the crowd. “We need change. We need change, governor.”
After visiting the memorial, Biden arrived for Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, where a teacher nearby held up a sign that said, “Mr. President, thank you for coming. I’m a teacher.”
Later, the president planned to meet privately with family members at a community center and then with first responders at the airport before returning to Washington, the White House said. He was not expected to deliver formal remarks.
Mckinzie Hinojosa, whose cousin Eliahana Torres was killed Tuesday, said she respected Biden’s decision to mourn with the people of Uvalde.
“It’s more than mourning,” she said. “We want change. We want action. It continues to be something that happens over and over and over. A mass shooting happens. It’s on the news. People cry. Then it’s gone. Nobody cares. And then it happens again. And again.
“If there’s anything if I could tell Joe Biden, as it is, just to respect our community while he’s here, and I’m sure he will,” she added. “But we need change. We need to do something about it.”
The visit to Uvalde on Sunday is Biden’s second trip in two weeks to comfort a community in mourning after staggering loss.
On May 17, Biden traveled to Buffalo, New York, to meet with victims’ families and condemn white supremacy after a radicalized shooter espousing the racist “replacement theory” killed 10 Black people at a supermarket.
The shootings in Texas and New York and their aftermath have put a spotlight on the nation’s entrenched divisions and its inability to forge consensus on actions to reduce gun violence.
“Let’s be clear, evil came to that elementary school classroom in Texas and that grocery store in New York.”
Biden said Saturday in his commencement address at the University of Delaware. He mentioned his upcoming trip to Uvalde, Texas, on Sunday, saying “as I speak, those parents are literally preparing to bury their children.”
“We cannot outlaw tragedy, I know, but we can make America safer.”
Scrutiny continues of the police response was increasing even before the Department of Justices’ announcement on Sunday.
Officials revealed Friday that students and teachers repeatedly begged 911 operators for help even as a police commander told more than a dozen officers to wait in a hallway. Officials said the commander believed that the suspect was barricaded inside an adjoining classroom and that there was no longer an active attack.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Friday he was “livid” and had been “misled” by law enforcement officials about the police response.
Speaking on Saturday, Biden said something had to change in response to the attack.
“I call on all Americans at this hour to join hands and make your voices heard, to work together to make this nation what it can and should be,” Biden said. “I know we can do this. We’ve done it before.”
The Associated Press and The Hill contributed to this story.