The White House on Thursday said it was reserving judgment on the police response to the mass shooting earlier this week at an elementary school in Texas as information is pieced together about the circumstances surrounding the tragedy.
“We’ve been watching the reporting on this. The president has the utmost respect … for the men and women of law enforcement,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters at a briefing.
“I know that right now authorities are working to piece together more details of what happened in Uvalde, so we won’t prejudge the results from here at this time,” she said.
Jean-Pierre had been asked whether President Biden, who on Sunday will visit the community rocked by the school shooting, supports an investigation into the police response.
She said the White House believes “it is always a good idea to look back and try to find any lessons we can learn, especially from tragedies like this.”
Her comments punctuated mounting scrutiny and confusion surrounding the police response to the shooting, and questions about whether law enforcement acted as fast as they should have.
Victor Escalon of the Texas Department of Public Safety told reporters during a news conference earlier Thursday that the 18-year-old gunman, identified as Salvador Ramos, walked into the school unobstructed, contrary to early claims from officials that someone shot at him before he entered the school.
Escalon said the door to the school through which the shooter entered was apparently unlocked.
Police say the shooter was in the school building for about an hour before officers entered the room in which he had barricaded himself. A Border Patrol agent shot and killed the gunman.
New videos also emerged on Thursday showing worried and frustrated families yelling at police officers outside of the school during the shooting, trying to go inside the school to rescue their loved ones.
Nineteen children and two teachers were killed in the massacre at Robb Elementary School on Tuesday, with just days left in the school year. The shooting has left the small community of Uvalde, Texas, reeling and revived a national debate about gun restrictions.
Biden has called on Congress to act on legislation to address gun violence, expressing frustration that more has not been done in the decade since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut.
“These were elementary school kids. They should be losing their first teeth, not losing their lives,” Jean-Pierre said Thursday.
Biden and first lady Jill Biden are scheduled to travel to Uvalde on Sunday to meet with community leaders, religious leaders and families of victims, the White House said.