US Attorney General Merrick Garland met with families of victims killed and injured in the 2022 Uvalde school massacre Wednesday evening, ahead of Thursday’s planned release of a Department of Justice report on law enforcement’s response to the mass shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead.
Several family members said they were told some of the findings of the DOJ’s critical incident review will be shared by Garland, US Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta and DOJ staff. The relatives were told grief counselors will be on hand for the meeting.
The parents of Khloie Torres left the meeting early, after about an hour. Ruben and Jamie Torres expressed disappointment, telling CNN they essentially didn’t hear anything new.
Khloie, who survived the May 24 massacre, was 10 years old and trapped at Robb Elementary School with the gunman who had slaughtered her friends and teacher. She made repeated calls to 911 throughout the incident.
Ahead of the meeting, some of the relatives told CNN they were “nervous” but also hopeful they would hear about accountability and get the answers they have been seeking about the disastrous police response at Robb Elementary School.
“It will be interesting to see if they (share) any info that’s worth anything,” one parent told CNN.
Alfred Garza III, whose 10-year-old daughter Amerie Jo Garza was killed, told reporters the meeting “went OK,” and he hoped the report might answer some questions, but “for the most part,” goes over much of what the public already knows.
“We had a lot of questions asked in there and I think they’re really going to give us a lot of insight (in the report) on some of the stuff we maybe didn’t know,” he added. Garza said he did get some of his own questions answered tonight, but didn’t want to get into the specifics ahead of the report’s release.
The DOJ has confirmed it will release its critical incident review Thursday, but did not confirm the Wednesday night meeting with families. Family members were not provided a copy of the report but were briefed by Garland about its content.
Prior to the meeting, Garland toured murals honoring the victims in Uvalde. The “Healing Uvalde Murals” were painted by 21 portrait artists around Uvalde for each of the victims gunned down at the elementary school on May 24, 2022.
The community is still struggling to understand why it took 77 minutes to stop the gunman, who had holed up in two adjoining classrooms as more than 370 law enforcement officers gathered at the scene.
The delay dragged on even as children inside repeatedly called 911 for help. The botched response also contradicted widely taught protocol for active shooter situations that calls for police to immediately stop the threat.
Controversy over the law enforcement response continued for months, as some authorities changed their narratives about how officers responded.
The DOJ said its goal in releasing its critical incident review Thursday 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.”
Oscar Orona, whose son Noah survived the massacre after suffering a gun shot wound in the back, described Wednesday’s briefing as “very positive.”
“We look forward to seeing the report because I think it will validate a lot of our feelings already as to what transpired and what should have happened. We’re confident tomorrow’s report will validate a lot of what we already know,” he told reporters Wednesday evening.
Orona said he’s hopeful with the report’s release, people around the world will “finally see the abysmal failure that law enforcement had.”
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