The Texas Tribune and other newsrooms sue to force Uvalde officials to release shooting records

ByZach Despart, The Texas Tribune
Tuesday, August 30, 2022
Newsrooms sue to force Uvalde officials to release shooting records
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News outlets that joined the Texas Tribune on Monday's lawsuit include some of the big ones like ProPublica, The New York Times Co., The Washington Post, and others.

The Texas Tribune, along with a group of other news organizations, filed a lawsuit Monday against the city of Uvalde, the Uvalde County Sheriff's Office and the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District asking a judge to order the release of records related to the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School.

The lawsuit states that the local entities have unlawfully withheld information detailing the actions of their dozens of law enforcement officers who responded to the massacre, which the news organizations requested under the Texas Public Information Act. These records include 911 calls, radio traffic, officer body camera footage, police reports, training materials and school surveillance footage.

"For more than three months, the City of Uvalde, Uvalde CISD and Uvalde Sheriff's Office have resisted the community's calls for transparency and accountability," said Laura Lee Prather, a First Amendment lawyer at Haynes and Boone who represents the plaintiffs. "Their obfuscation has only prolonged the pain and grief of this tragedy. Today we are asking the Uvalde District Court to heed the call of the community and recognize that the public is entitled to these records under Texas law. We ask that the court grant our petition so that the people of Uvalde can understand the truth about what happened that fateful day."

More than 350 officers from local, state and federal agencies responded to the shooting, a force larger than the garrison that defended the Alamo. Yet officers took more than an hour to ultimately confront and kill the gunman, a woefully inadequate response that drew sharp criticism from the special House of Representatives committee formed to investigate the massacre. Nineteen students and two teachers were killed.

The Tribune and other news organizations also previously filed suit against the Department of Public Safety over its refusal to release records related to the shooting. The agency's director publicly pinned much of the blame for the flawed police response on the Uvalde school district police chief, though DPS has repeatedly declined to detail the actions of most of its 91 officers who were on the scene.

The city, county and school district have sought permission from the state's attorney general to withhold information requested by the news organizations. Under the state's public records law, documents can be exempted from public disclosure in certain circumstances. The lawsuit states that even after the attorney general informed the city of Uvalde that it could not withhold some documents sought by journalists, the city has yet to release them.

Other news outlets that joined Monday's lawsuit include ProPublica, The New York Times Co., The Washington Post, Gannett, NBC News, ABC News, CBS News and Dow Jones & Co.

The suit was filed in state district court in Uvalde County by the law firm Haynes and Boone.

SEE RELATED: Uvalde CISD school board unanimously votes to terminate police chief Pete Arredondo

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