Uvalde, Texas, May 29 (EFE).- President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden on Sunday visited Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where last week a teenage gunman murdered 19 children – most of them just 10 years old – and two teachers.
The first couple placed a floral offering at the memorial dedicated to the victims, spoke with school principal Mandy Gutierrez and with school district superintendant Hal Harrel, and then attended a Mass for the victims.
At the memorial, the Bidens – the president with tears in his eyes – slowly read the names of the dead and viewed their photos.
The Mass was attended by some 600 people at the Sacred Heart church in Uvalde and the Bidens – who are Catholic – were welcomed by Archbishop Gustavo Garcia Siller.
After the Mass, the Bidens met in private with survivors of the massacre and relatives of the victims.
Uvalde is a town of some 16,000 people located in the Texas Hill Country 130 kilometers (80 miles) west of San Antonio.
Meanwhile, the US Department of Justice announced Sunday that it will investigate the police response to the shooting, with DOJ spokesman Anthony Coley saying in a statement that the results of the probe will be made public and adding that it was being opened in response to a request by Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin after the actions of the local police have been closely questioned – and harshly criticized by some – because of the apparent slowness of their response in dealing with the “active shooter” at the school.
According to the US government, the aim of the probe is to obtain an independent version of the response of local law enforcement to the massacre-in-progress.
It is hoped that the conclusions of the investigation will be able to identify problems and update action protocols to better handle future emergencies of this kind.
The head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Steven McCraw, acknowledged at a Friday press conference that the fact that the police did not forcibly enter the classroom where the gunman had locked the door and massacred both teachers and many of the students inside was the “wrong” decision and blamed the top police officer on the scene at that time for the delay.
Several media outlets reported Saturday that the head of the Uvalde School District Police, Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, who has not appeared at press conferences on the shooting for several days, was the officer who held back his colleagues from taking more rapid action that some say could have saved lives.
McCraw said that after multiple gunshots were heard in the classroom and thinking that the gunman inside would fire his assault rifle at the door when officers tried to break in, Arredondo decided that there was nobody alive to save inside the classroom, an assessment that proved to be incorrect.
Having come to that conclusion, however, Arredondo opted to wait until a Border Patrol SWAT team arrived, broke down the door and entered behind a bulletproof shield, where those officers confronted the gunman, were fired on by him and then shot him dead.
On the floor of the classroom, officers found the children Ramos had shot, many of them already dead, but about 17 of whom were either wounded or playing dead, including Miah Cerrillo, 11, who had smeared the blood of another student on her body to make the killer think she, too, was already dead.