DOJ lays out plan to review law enforcement response in Uvalde

Southwest

(NewsNation) — The Department of Justice on Wednesday announced its next steps in a review of the law enforcement response to the mass shooting at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school that took 21 lives.

A critical incident review will be led by the Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS. It will involve an assessment of local law enforcement’s policies, training, communications, deployment and incident command tactics and practices during an active shooter event.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a press briefing that this is not a criminal investigation. Although such a review is somewhat rare, Garland pointed out that similar ones were conducted after 14 people were killed in a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, and after the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

“The goal of the review is to provide an independent account of law enforcement actions and responses, identify lessons learned and best practices to help first responders prepare for and respond to active shooter events, and provide a roadmap for community safety and engagement before, during and after such incidents,” the Department of Justice said in a news release.

McKenzie Hinojosa, 28, writes a message on a cross for her cousin Eliahana Torres, at a memorial site for victims, including her cousin, killed in the Robb Elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

The police’s actions, or what some are calling inaction, on the day of the shooting at Robb Elementary School have been heavily criticized since it was revealed that 19 police officers waited for more than 45 minutes in a hallway near the active shooter’s location. Pete Arredondo, the chief of police for the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, was the one who decided officers should wait to confront the gunman, treating the situation as a barricaded subject, and not an active shooter incident.

It was later reported that Arredondo was not carrying a radio as the massacre unfolded.

Arredondo has not responded to a request for a follow-up interview in the Texas Department of Public Safety’s investigation for the shooting, a spokesperson told NewsNation last month.

But Garland said he doesn’t anticipate any problems with local officials cooperating in the Justice Department’s investigation.

“We’ve been invited by the mayor,” Garland said.

In a statement of his own, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin thanked the Justice Department for its “swift action” on the review.

“This assessment and the findings are of the utmost importance to the victims and their families, the community of Uvalde and the country,” McLaughlin said. “The city will fully cooperate with the Department of Justice and will assist with coordinating as necessary with other local entities as needed for this review. I trust the assessment will be fair and transparent. Our grieving families and our community deserve answers to all their questions.”

A team of federal staff and experts with experience in active shooter responses, school safety, officer safety and wellness as well as victim and family support will assist the COPS representatives in their review.

These experts are:

  • Retired Police Chief Rick Braziel of Sacramento, California
  • Retired Deputy Chief Gene Deisinger of Virginia Tech, Virginia
  • Retired Director of Public Safety Frank Fernandez, of Coral Gables, Florida
  • Albert Guarnieri, an FBI unit chief
  • Retired Maj. Mark Lomax of the Pennsylvania State Police
  • Laura McElroy, CEO of the McElroy Media Group
  • Sheriff John Mina of Orange County, Florida
  • April Naturale, assistant vice president of Vibrant Emotional Health
  • Retired Police Chief Kristen Ziman of Aurora, Illinois

Garland said the team has already begun their work, and will be on the ground in Uvalde as necessary.

“Nothing can undo the pain that has been inflicted on the loved ones of the victims, the survivors and the entire community of Uvalde,” Garland said in a statement. “But the Justice Department can and will use its expertise and independence to assess what happened and to provide guidance moving forward.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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