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Uvalde families told to wait a little longer on DOJ investigation of school shooting

The Justice Department held a closed-door meeting with families of victims of the May 24 shooting massacre.
Crosses set up to honor those who lost their lives during the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas on Nov. 8, 2022.
Crosses set up to honor those who died in the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas.Mark Felix / AFP via Getty Images file

UVALDE, Texas — Nearly a year after a gunman opened fire inside an Uvalde, Texas elementary school, the Department of Justice told victims' families it's still determining how law enforcement failed them.

Vanita Gupta, a DOJ associate attorney general and the No. 3 official in the federal agency, met with families in a closed-door meeting Wednesday night to update them on its investigation.

DOJ began its investigation soon after the May 24, 2022, school shooting massacre in which a gunman armed with an AR-15 rifle killed 19 children and two teachers; 17 people were also injured.

Law enforcement at the scene was heavily criticized for waiting more than an hour to confront the gunman, and their agencies and government officials have further angered victims' families for issuing inaccurate accounts of their response to the shooter.

In a news release issued after the meeting, the DOJ announced it has collected more than 13,000 items that it is reviewing and analyzing. Its investigators have spent about 30 days in Uvalde over 11 months.

The material being reviewed includes policies, procedures and training materials from responding agencies; manuals; and hours of video, photos and interview transcripts. DOJ has interviewed or participated in interviews of more than 200 people from more than 30 agencies and organizations, including law enforcement, the release states.

The meeting received mixed results from family members.

Abel Lopez, father of Xavier Lopez, one of the children killed by the gunman, expressed frustration to the San Antonio Express-News after he and his wife left the meeting early.

"They want to hear from us. They're not giving us anything," Lopez said.

Javier Cazares, father of Jacklyn Cazares, also killed in the shooting, was unable to make the meeting. But he told NBC News he'd "rather they took their time and do it right."

"I would like to have more, of course, but I'd rather they take their time and do it right," said Cazares, who has been active in demanding changes to gun laws and assistance for families since the shooting.

Families had asked for an independent investigation of the law enforcement response. The Texas Rangers were tasked with a criminal investigation, but the investigative unit is part of the Texas Department of Public Safety, whose officers were among those who were on the scene and waited to enter. The Rangers are still conducting their investigation.

DOJ has said its investigation is intended to "provide families the full accounting they deserve," which will be spelled out in a full report and delivered in the next few months.

The investigation's stated goal is to give an independent account of law enforcement's actions and responses, as well as identify lessons for future active shooter events. It is not a criminal investigation.

An investigation by a Texas House committee found "systemic failures" in the Uvalde shooting response.