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AUSTIN, Texas — A Texas House Investigative Committee began its search for answers in the Robb Elementary School shooting on Thursday and could produce a preliminary report on its fact-finding mission by the end of the month.
"The people of Uvalde and the entire State of Texas deserve facts and answers as to what happened leading up to, during, and in the aftermath of this tragedy, and this committee will do everything in its power to get to the bottom of the matter," Republican state Rep. Dustin Burrows, the committee chairman, said in the panel's opening remarks.
Burrows added that the committee "may produce a preliminary report in order to accommodate the need to have some information out to the public before a full and thorough investigation has taken place."
A source close to the committee said the preliminary report is expected to be complete by the end of June. The report is expected to focus on the facts only and include a chronological sequence of events, a timeline, and details on the shooter, according to this source. The committee is quasi-judicial and has subpoena power, and all witness testimony will be under oath, the source said.
In the coming weeks, the committee — comprised of Burrows, Democratic state Rep. Joe Moody and former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman — will be hearing testimony from law enforcement authorities.
"Failing to tackle these issues because they are difficult or politically uncomfortable is cowardly and morally wrong," Moody said Thursday. "We have a duty to do what we can, because our children's lives are on the line."
After opening remarks, the committee ended the public portion of the hearing and moved to a private executive session.
The committee hearing comes two weeks after gunman Salvador Ramos used an AR-15-style rifle to kill 19 children and two teachers inside adjoining classrooms at Robb Elementary. The gunman was in the classrooms for more than an hour even as law enforcement stood in the hallway outside and as children inside called 911 and urgently pleaded for help, officials said.
We have a duty to do what we can, because our children's lives are on the line.
–Texas state Rep. Joe Moody
The 18-year-old gunman was ultimately shot and killed by a Border Patrol tactical response team, according to a timeline provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
The lengthy delay appeared to violate commonly accepted protocol in active shooter situations, in which police are instructed to stop the gunman as soon as possible.
Authorities have offered contradictory explanations of how the gunman was able to enter the school, what police did in response and why he was able to remain inside for so long. They have not held a press conference to answer these key questions in over a week, frustrating local residents and officials alike.
"I've asked everybody involved for a briefing at one point or another," Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said Tuesday. "It's frustrating, but again I've been told I'm not law enforcement, but it makes me feel real frustrated."
At McLaughlin's request, the U.S. Department of Justice assembled a team to lead a federal review of the response to the shooting. The team will be supported by experts including retired police chiefs and an FBI official. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said Wednesday the DOJ investigation "is not a criminal review."
Also on Thursday, Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District superintendent Hal Harrell took some questions but declined to speak on the investigation or on the employment status of Pedro "Pete" Arredondo, the school police chief who oversaw the flawed response to the shooting.
"That's a personnel question and I'm not going to be able to answer that in a public forum," he said.