TEHRAN (Iran News) – The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an investigation into the controversial police response to the school shooting massacre in Texas amid mounting anger from the families of the victims.
The inquiry of the school shooting in the city of Uvalde, Texas will cover why police officers waited over an hour in the hall outside the classroom where the shooter murdered 19 kids, two teachers, and wounded others.
The Department says it will conduct a “critical incident review” of the law enforcement action last Tuesday.
“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,”
spokesperson Anthony Coley said.
He noted that the mayor of Uvalde, Don McLaughlin, had requested the review.
McLaughlin has told U.S. media that it was time to invest in America’s domestic problems and stop giving billions of dollars away “to countries that don’t like us.”
“We give billions of dollars away to countries that don’t even like us. We ought to take that money and invest in our own country and build facilities. Look at the homeless people in Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and all over the United States on the street that have problems, and they are not getting any help from anybody.”
The Uvalde mayor also lashed out at the lack of action by authorities to address the U.S. gun violence epidemic.
“The gun played a role in it, too, but what if we would have been able to help this child? What if some incident would have triggered somebody and we could have got him help? We might have avoided this, but the problem is we don’t do anything.”
Videos have emerged of parents begging police officers outside the school to allow them inside to save their own children, with some parents saying they were handcuffed and others threatened with stun guns if they refused to disperse.
In the days following the tragedy, officials publicly stated conflicting accounts of how the local police and federal authorities handled the massacre.
Coley claims the review would be conducted in a fair, impartial, and independent manner and the findings would be made public.
“As with prior Justice Department after-action reviews of mass shootings and other critical incidents, this assessment will be fair, transparent, and independent,” he said.
However, It has not been made clear how the probe would be conducted, whether the law enforcement officials involved would be brought in to cooperate with the review and when the probe is expected to be completed.
Florida congresswoman and former Orlando police chief Val Demings demanded a “complete investigation”, arguing “we have more questions than answers.”
“We’ve got to do a job of keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people. There again, the Senate can take action on that,” she added.
High-level investigation is rare in the U.S. as the majority of reports following mass shootings (of which there have been too many) are generally compiled by local law enforcement agencies or outside groups.
In 2015, the Justice Department conducted a similar investigation after 14 people were killed in a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California.
The Department did so again following the mass shooting at a venue in Orlando, Florida, a deadly attack that left 49 people dead and 53 people wounded.
This time, local police have been the subject of intense scrutiny from the public and parents of the children killed.
On Friday, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Steven McCraw, admitted it was “wrong” for officers to have waited about an hour after the shooting began and then confront the gunman.
The police’s twisting of the chain of events and different revelations has caused more grief and raised questions over whether more lives were lost because officers did not act faster to stop the gunman, who was ultimately killed by Border Patrol tactical officers.
The man in charge of the response at the time of the massacre, Uvalde school district police chief Pedro Arredondo, has been in hiding ever since the massacre occurred and under police protection.
Officials have denounced the failure to swiftly storm into the classroom where the gunman was barricaded.
Arredondo’s neighbor Lydia Torres, has told American Media “Pete [Pedro] Arredondo is a coward. He didn’t do his job. He failed the children. He is hiding in his home, requesting the PD [police department] patrol the area and guard his home day and night. He should come out and speak up.”
Officials initially said the shooter had “engaged” with a school resource officer but later changed that account, saying such an officer had not even been on campus.
Authorities later said that police officers had been in the hallway outside the classroom where the gunman had barricaded himself but waited until someone came with a key to unlock the door. This was more than an hour after gunfire began.
The police protocol that was put in place following the Columbine school shooting in Colorado in 1999 stipulates that police should confront the shooters as soon as possible.
Officials in Texas also said officers opted to wait to confront the gunman until reinforcements had arrived.
One mother in the Texas school massacre said her child had died from a single gunshot. Referring to the death Gutierrez says “the first responder that they eventually talked to said that their child likely bled out”
He pointed out “in that span of 30 or 40 minutes extra, that little girl might have lived.”
“So many things went wrong, here,” he added, although he said responsibility should not be on one police officer.
“At the end of the day, everybody failed, we failed these children,” he said, including lawmakers failing to pass stricter gun safety laws.
The gunman stormed into the school in the latest bout of gun-fueled mass killings in the United States and the nation’s worst school shooting since Sandy Hook a decade ago.
During the time that he had locked and barricaded himself into a classroom with the children and their teachers, one child made at least six calls to the 911 emergency number to plead for help from police, even as officers were standing right outside.
Texas Republican congressman Dan Crenshaw says “the fact that it took border patrol an hour later to come in and actually do the job for the police is pretty embarrassing.”
Crenshaw added. “So, let’s let the investigation play out, but it’s hard not to see how someone doesn’t get fired for this, for these very, very bad calls.”
On Sunday, President Joe Biden travelled to Uvalde seeking to comfort the relatives (Biden’s second trip in as many weeks to comfort a community in mourning – on May 17, he was in Buffalo, after a white supremacist terrorist killed 10 Black people at a supermarket).
As the president left a church to head to private meetings with family members, a crowd of people gathered and began chanting “do something.”
Biden has not spoken publicly about the police response to the shooting.
Mckinzie Hinojosa, whose cousin, Eliahana Cruz Torres, 10, was killed, said “It’s more than mourning, we want to 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.”