The district attorney in Uvalde, Texas, has said for months that she intended to convene a grand jury to consider evidence from the 2022 shooting at Robb Elementary School, with the possibility that state criminal charges could result over the botched police response to the massacre.
The district attorney, Christina Mitchell, said in an email in December that she would “dissect the investigation of the Texas Rangers” into the shooting “and then present same to an Uvalde County grand jury for review.”
On Friday, it emerged that selection for the grand jury had begun, according to a person familiar with the matter. The inquiry was likely to last months.
Word that the grand jury had begun to be convened, first reported by The Uvalde Leader-News, came a day after the Justice Department published a 600-page report that found broad and “unimaginable” failures that delayed the response and subsequent medical care to the victims after the mass shooting.
The probe by Ms. Mitchell had been anticipated by the family members of the victims and survivors of the shooting, who have long said that a near-total breakdown in policing protocols by about 370 police officers may have worsened the outcome of a shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead.
The grand jury could be asked to determine whether any of the officers broke the law by waiting 77 minutes to confront the teenage gunman, who was holed up in two connected classrooms while some children from one of the classrooms called 911 for help.
While police officers have occasionally been charged and convicted for their actions during fatal encounters, criminal charges against police officers who failed to protect the public remain rare. The law usually does not require people to put themselves in harm’s way even if training instructs them to do so, according to policing experts.
Ms. Mitchell did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.
As of Friday, 12 jurors had been selected to be part of the grand jury, according to the person familiar with the matter; they were to begin hearing evidence in the coming days.
Two months before the massacre, officers with the Uvalde school district’s police force had gone through active shooter training, which included guidelines that called for them to immediately confront a gunman to stop more bloodshed. “A first responder unwilling to place the lives of the innocent above their own safety should consider another career field,” the guidelines read.
Some of the first officers on the scene initially moved toward the door that led into one of the classrooms where the gunman had opened fire, but they were fired upon. At that point, they were captured on camera waiting outside in the hallway. The local school police chief had classified the incident as a barricaded subject instead of an active shooter situation, which would have called for a more aggressive approach.
Federal border agents eventually confronted the gunman and killed him.
During a media briefing Thursday in Uvalde, the U.S. Attorney General, Merrick Garland, said that “lives would have been saved, and people would have survived,” if officers had acted faster to confront the gunman.
Mr. Garland said that protocols call for responding officers “to immediately enter the room to stop the shooter with whatever weapons and tools the officers have with them.”
Blame for the delayed police confrontation with the gunman has shifted since the day of the shooting. Shortly after the tragedy, the top state police official, Steven McCraw, pointed the finger at the local school police chief, Pete Arredondo. Then it turned out that state police officers were also among those who failed to actively confront the gunman. In its report, the Justice Department focused largely on decisions by Mr. Arredondo, finding that his decisions delayed the response.
Mr. Arredondo, who says he has become a “sacrificial lamb” in the situation, has said he acted to save as many lives as he could, including those of students in nearby classrooms who might have been injured by any crossfire.
J. David Goodman contributed reporting from Houston.