President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden visited the site of Wednesday's school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, on Sunday as federal officials announced they had opened an investigation into how police responded to the attack.
The Department of Justice said its "fair, transparent, and independent" critical incident review had been launched at the request of Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin and would culminate in a report to be published with any findings.
“The goal of the review is to provide an independent account of law enforcement actions and responses that day, and to identify lessons learned and best practices to help first responders prepare for and respond to active shooter events," DOJ spokesperson Anthony Coley said in a statement.
Local police have come under immense scrutiny and criticism for not sooner confronting the shooter, who spent roughly an hour and 20 minutes inside two classrooms at Robb Elementary School murdering children. Officials have said they believed the children were already dead, but some children were still calling 911, begging for help, as police waited outside.
At the site of the tragedy Sunday, the Bidens laid white flowers and quietly examined photographs of the 19 children and two adults killed. As they moved from picture to picture at a makeshift memorial site, the first lady touched the faces of each child and patted at her tears. The president could also be seen wiping away a tear at one point.
The couple were cheered by onlookers as they arrived and departed, but Texas Gov. Greg Abbott — who has been criticized for his defense of the state's gun laws — received some jeers as he appeared. As the governor arrived at the school, one man in the crowd shouted, "We need help!"
After visiting the school, the Bidens were set to attend Mass in Uvalde and meet with families, survivors, and first responders.
"Those parents are literally preparing to bury their children in the United States of America — to bury their children," the president said Saturday during a commencement address at the University of Delaware, his alma mater. "There’s too much violence, too much fear, too much grief."
It's the second time in as many weeks that the president has visited a city shaken by a mass shooting. The Bidens traveled to Buffalo, New York, on May 17 to comfort the families of the 10 Black shoppers killed at a supermarket.
"Let's be clear: Evil came to that elementary school classroom in Texas, to that grocery store in New York, to far too many places where innocents have died," Biden said Saturday. "In the face of such destructive forces, we have to stand stronger. We must stand stronger. We cannot outlaw tragedy, I know, but we can make America safer."