US House Committee hears from Texas school shooting victims

Hearings were held by a U.S. House Committee Wednesday morning, with the goal of addressing shootings across the country and potential gun reforms.

Members of the Uvalde, Texas, community testified about their experiences before members of the committee. Nineteen children and two teachers died when an 18-year-old gunman opened fire with an AR-15-style rifle inside Robb Elementary School on May 24.

You can watch the full testimony in the video player above.

Wednesday was the second day lawmakers have heard wrenching testimony on the nation’s epidemic of gun violence. On Tuesday, a Senate panel heard from t he son of an 86-year-old woman killed when a gunman opened fire in a racist attack on Black shoppers in Buffalo, New York on May 14. Ten Black people died.

ABC News reports 11-year-old Miah Cerrillo, a fourth grader who covered herself in blood and played dead to survive, was initially expected appear in person during the hearings but ABC issued an update Wednesday that her father would appear in her place and would introduce her video statement.

Cerrillo told lawmakers in a pre-recorded video that she watched a teacher get shot in the head before looking for a place to hide.

“I thought he would come back so I covered myself with blood,” Cerrillo told the House panel. “I put it all over me and I just stayed quiet.” She called 911 using the deceased teacher’s phone and pleaded for help.

In the video Wednesday, Miah’s father, Miguel Cerillo, asks his daughter if she feels safe at school anymore. She shook her head no.

“Why?” he asks. “I don’t want it to happen again,” she responds.

Chairwoman Maloney issued the following statement to ABC in response to that decision: “The Committee has been in close contact with Miah, her family, and her pediatrician and has been prioritizing her safety and comfort first and foremost. Her decision to record her story and share it with the American people is courageous – and I hope all Members open their hearts and minds to what she has to say. Miah, her family, and her pediatrician have made the decision to have her not appear in person, and she will be represented by her father who will introduce her recorded testimony.”

The testimony at the House Oversight Committee comes as lawmakers are working to strike a bipartisan agreement on gun safety measures in the aftermath of back-to-back mass shootings.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., the panel’s chairwoman, called the hearing to focus on the human impact of gun violence and the urgency for lawmakers to enact gun control legislation.

“I am asking every Member of this Committee to listen with an open heart to the brave witnesses who have come forward to tell their stories about how gun violence has impacted their lives,” Maloney said in opening remarks. “Our witnesses today have endured pain and loss. Yet they are displaying incredible courage by coming here to ask us to do our jobs.”

The panel also included raw testimony from Zeneta Everhart, whose 20-year-old son Zaire was wounded in the Buffalo mass shooting.

Everhart told lawmakers it was their duty to draft legislation that protects Zaire and other Americans. She said that if they did not find the testimony moving enough to act on gun laws, they had an invitation to go to her home to help her clean her son’s wounds.

“My son Zaire has a hole in the right side of his neck, two on his back, and another on his left leg,” she said, then paused to compose herself. “As I clean his wounds, I can feel pieces of that bullet in his back. Shrapnel will be left inside of his body for the rest of his life. Now I want you to picture that exact scenario for one of your children.”

The parents of Lexi Rubio, who died in her classroom in Uvalde, also testified. Felix and Kimberly Rubio recounted finding out about their daughter’s death hours after leaving Lexi’s school awards ceremony on the morning of May 24.

Kimberly Rubio, a reporter, said she began writing about a new business in town when the office started hearing about a shooting near the elementary school. She said it wasn’t long before she received word from her son’s teacher that they were safe. But Lexi wasn’t there at the local civic center as children were reunited with their parents.

The couple drove to the local hospital to provide her description, but she wasn’t there either. The mother of five said there came a point when “some part of me must have realized that she was gone.”

To get to the elementary school, she ran barefoot for a mile with her sandals in her hand and with her husband by her side. A firefighter eventually gave them a ride back to the civic center.

“Soon after we received the news that our daughter was among the 19 students and two teachers that died as a result of gun violence,” she said, fighting through tears.

Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced Wednesday a team of nine people has been named to review the law enforcement response to the Uvalde shooting. The team includes an FBI official and former police chiefs.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the team during a meeting in his office in Washington on Wednesday. The critical incident review is being led by the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

The review will include an examination of police policies, training and communication, along with the deployment of officers and tactics, the Justice Department said. It will also examine who was in command of the incident and how police prepared for potential active-shooter incidents.

In a statement, the Justice Department said it was committed to “moving as expeditiously as possible in the development of the report.” Officials said the team would conduct a complete reconstruction of the shooting; review all relevant documents, including policies, photos and videos; conduct a visit to the school; and interview an array of witnesses and families of the victims, along with police, school and government officials.

“Nothing can undo the pain that has been inflicted on the loved ones of the victims, the survivors and the entire community of Uvalde,” Garland said in a statement. “But the Justice Department can and will use its expertise and independence to assess what happened and to provide guidance moving forward.”

The review was requested by Uvalde’s mayor. Such a review is somewhat rare, and most after-action reports that come after a mass shooting are generally compiled by local law enforcement agencies or outside groups. The Justice Department conducted similar reviews after 14 people were killed in a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, in 2015 and after the mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, the deadliest attack on the LGBTQ community in U.S. history, which left 49 people dead and 53 people wounded in 2016.

The Justice Department said the nine officials on the team in the Uvalde case had been selected for their expertise in law enforcement, emergency management, active shooter response, school safety and other areas. The team includes the former chief of the Sacramento, California, Police Department, a deputy chief who worked at Virginia Tech, the sheriff in Orange County, Florida, an FBI unit chief and other officials.

Law enforcement and state officials have struggled to present an accurate timeline and details, and they have stopped releasing information about the police response.

The gunman, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, spent roughly 80 minutes inside Robb Elementary, and more than an hour passed from when the first officers followed him into the building and when he was killed, according to an official timeline. In the meantime, parents outside begged police to rush in, and panicked children called 911 from inside.

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An earlier version of this report appears below.

Survivors of the Robb Elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas will testify before members of Congress Wednesday morning.

The hearings are being held by a House Committee, with the goal of addressing shootings across the country and potential gun reforms.

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ABC News reports 11-year-old Miah Cerrillo, a fourth grader who covered herself in blood and played dead in order to survive, was expected to deliver a video statement during the hearings.

Other survivors, as well as the families of victims, are also in Washington, D.C. are calling for change.

“My mother’s life mattered, and your actions here today would tell us how much it matters to you,” said Garnell Whitfield Jr., the son of a shooting victim in Buffalo, New York.

Wednesday’s hearings come one day after Academy Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey appeared at the White House, and called on Congress to pass gun control legislation following last month’s shooting in his hometown. He specifically called on Congress to bolster background checks for gun purchases and raise the minimum age to purchase an AR-15-style rifle to 21 from 18.

Two sources tell ABC News Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has privately expressed openness to raising the age to buy a semi automatic rifle from 18 to 21.

That report comes as a group of bipartisan senators aim to have a compromise on proposals ready by the end of the week.

ABC News will be breaking in with special coverage of Wednesday’s Congressional hearings on gun reforms.

CLICK HERE for complete coverage of the Robb Elementary School shooting.