Families of the victims killed in the Uvalde shooting met with U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday. They want accountability for those who failed to save the children and teachers from the massacre, but Garland only reiterated that the delayed police response cost lives.
Garland met with the families to explain the Justice Department’s investigation into the 2022 shooting. The investigation concluded that the entire police response to the shooting was a “failure” and that lives could have been saved if the police had responded appropriately to the situation.
“When he says that lives could have been saved, I just couldn’t believe it,” said Jerry Mata, who lost his daughter Tess in the shooting. “For these officers to sit there and not do anything, and still be out there on the streets like nothing happened, and my daughter’s gone — it was hard, it was hard.”
The officers waited 77 minutes before confronting and killing the 18-year-old gunman. Some relatives say those officers should be prosecuted for allowing the shooter to kill and wound the children.
The 575-page report delves into details about police procedures, protocols, and how law enforcement failed to respond to the situation. The report was an investigation into the shooting and procedures, but it was not a criminal investigation.
There are other investigations into the shooting that have not yet been made public, including records from the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Uvalde County District Attorney’s Office, and the City of Uvalde’s independent investigation.
The DPS has been sued by media outlets for refusing to release the report of the investigation to the public. The department turned the findings over to Christina Mitchell, the district attorney for Uvalde and Real Counties. Mitchell has provided few details about her criminal investigation.
Family members and others have criticized Mitchell for not releasing the report, which includes autopsies, school surveillance, police car and body camera footage, and video of the shooter buying guns at a Uvalde gun store before the shooting.
Mitchell recently announced that a grand jury has been convened to review the evidence and weigh possible criminal charges. If the grand jury finds evidence that a crime was committed, it will issue an indictment listing the charges, and nine of the grand jurors must vote to do so.
But bringing criminal charges can be difficult. Jay Norton, a former assistant district attorney in Bexar County, told the San Antonio Express-News that the police response at Robb Elementary appeared to be a mistake, but not a criminal one.
“There’s a lot of mistakes made. It’s unfortunate, but a terrible mistake is not necessarily a crime,” he said.
According to a report by the SA Express-News, only a few of the 378 officers involved in the response have faced disciplinary action, including Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, the Uvalde school district’s police chief. He was fired three months after the shooting.
The acting chief of the Uvalde Police Department was also set to be fired, but he retired before city officials could do so.
Steve McCraw, the head of the DPS, has fired some of his officers, but he has refused to step down.
Relatives of the victims have said they feel abandoned by local and state leaders, and that the city is now divided between those who want justice and those who want to put the massacre behind them.
“It is hard enough waking up every day and continuing to walk out on these streets, walk to a (grocery store) and see a cop who you know was standing there when our babies were murdered and bleeding out,” said Brett Cross, whose 10-year-old nephew was killed in the shooting.