“We will be assessing what happened that day. We will be doing site visits at the school. We will be conducting interviews [with] an extremely wide variety of stakeholders,” including victims’ families, law enforcement, government officials, school officials and witnesses, Garland said.
He emphasized the DOJ investigation “is not a criminal review.” Rather, it “will examine issues including policies, training, communications, deployment and incident command, tactics, and practices as they relate to preparing for and responding to active shooter events, as well as the post-incident response,” the DOJ said.
But McLaughlin quickly added that he was “not blaming anybody.”
“We want the truthful answers. We want to be transparent, and we will when it comes out. We have nothing to hide.”
Besides the federal DOJ investigation, Texas state House Rep. Dustin Burrows said a Uvalde Investigative Committee hearing set for Thursday will feature DPS members as witnesses.
A girl who covered herself in her friend’s blood testifies
As the DOJ investigates the police response, members of Congress heard from a girl who survived the massacre after covering herself with her friend’s blood and playing dead.
The killer “told my teacher, ‘Good night,’ and shot her in the head,” Miah said in pre-recorded testimony played Wednesday.
“And then he shot some of my classmates… He shot my friend that was next to me.”
Miah said the gunman went into an adjoining classroom. Fearful that he might come back and target her, Miah said she “grabbed the blood and I put it all over me.”
At one point, Miah managed to get her teacher’s cell phone and call 911. But the response was confounding.
“I told her that we need help, and she said the police in our classroom,” Miah said.
Her father, Miguel Cerillo, who was at the hearing, broke into tears after his daughter’s video played.
“I wish something would change — not only for our kids, but every single kid in the world — because schools are not safe anymore,” Cerillo said. “Something needs to really change.”
Victims were trapped with the gunman for more than an hour
As many as 19 law enforcement officers were inside the school for more than 45 minutes before the suspect was finally killed, the Texas DPS said.
It’s not clear how many of the 21 slain victims could have been saved had police stormed the classrooms sooner.
“I’ve been told that they’re law enforcement and we’re not. We’re not going to be entitled to it,” the mayor said. “I’ve asked everybody involved for a briefing at one point or another.”
The Texas Rangers — part of the Texas DPS — are investigating the police response to the horrifying attack. That probe is separate from the federal DOJ review. Associate US Attorney General Vanita Gupta helped coordinate support from Texas officials at the request from the Uvalde mayor.
‘There is no excuse for their actions’
Arnulfo Reyes, a Robb Elementary teacher who was shot twice during the bloodbath, said he was furious about how the tragedy was handled.
“You’re supposed to protect and serve … There is no excuse for their actions. And I will never forgive them,” the fourth-grade teacher said.
Describing the first moments of the shooting, Reyes said he and his students heard gunshots and he told them to “get under the table and act like you’re asleep.”
“As they were doing that, and I was gathering them under the table and told them to act like they’re going to sleep, is about the time when I turned around and saw him standing there.”
The gunman opened fire, striking Reyes; one bullet went through his arm and lung, and another hit his back, ABC reported.
Reyes couldn’t move after being shot, he said, and the shooter then turned his gun on the students.
Officers could be heard outside the classroom, and a child in another classroom pleaded for police to help, Reyes said. But Reyes thinks that by that time, officers had retreated down a hallway, he told ABC.
“One of the students from the next-door classroom was saying, ‘Officer, we’re in here. We’re in here,'” he said. “But they had already left.”
When the Border Patrol unit eventually came inside, “it was just bullets everywhere,” he told ABC.
When asked if he had a message for the students’ parents, Reyes tearfully replied: “I’m sorry. I tried my best from what I was told to do. Please don’t be angry with me.”
He also said change is needed to prevent such school massacres in the future.
“You can give us all the training you want, but … laws have to change,” he said. “It won’t ever change unless they change the laws.”
CNN’s Hannah Rabinowitz, Sarah Fortinsky, Christian Sierra, Rebekah Riess, Shimon Prokupecz, Rosa Flores, Rosalina Nieves, Paula Reid, Whitney Wild, Amanda Musa, Tina Burnside and DJ Judd contributed to this report.