August 5, 2022

Media organizations sue Texas DPS for records on response to Robb Elementary shooting


By Bethany Blankley

More than a dozen media organizations sued the Texas Department of Public Safety seeking records on the law enforcement response to the May 24 Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde.

The lawsuit was filed after local, state and national news organizations filed public information requests for records related to state and local law enforcement response to the shooting. DPS officials have yet to release them, citing a pending investigation exemption.

The organizations requested records including emails, video footage from unredacted body-worn camera recordings and other video footage, call logs, 911 records and other emergency communications, interview notes, forensic and ballistic records, and a list of DPS personnel who responded to the scene.

The news organizations argue there is no ongoing criminal investigation because the shooter was killed and because Uvalde County District Attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee said she wasn’t conducting a criminal investigation.

“In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, and continuing throughout the ensuing two months, DPS has declined to provide any meaningful information in response to the Requests regarding the events of that day – despite the unfathomable reality that some 376 members of law enforcement responded to the tragedy, and hundreds of those were in the school or on school property not going into the unlocked classroom where the gunman continued killing helpless youth,” the lawsuit states. “At the same time, DPS has offered conflicting accounts regarding the response of law enforcement, the conduct of its officers, the results of its own investigation, and the agency’s justifications for withholding information from the public.”

“DPS has said little about the actions of 91 of its officers who responded to the shooting,” Houston-based KSAT, a plaintiff in the case, reported. “DPS had the second highest number of personnel respond to the shooting and its immediate aftermath, trailing only the U.S. Border Patrol with 149 agents.”

While DPS officials said they were launching an internal review last month into its response to the shooting, it’s also “offered inconsistent accounts of how law enforcement responded to the Uvalde tragedy,” Laura Lee Prather, an attorney with Haynes Boone representing the plaintiffs, said. 

DPS’ “lack of transparency has stirred suspicion and frustration in a community that is still struggling with grief and shock,” she added. “DPS has refused numerous requests by these news organizations even though it’s clear under Texas law that the public is entitled to have access to these important public records. We ask that the court grant our petition so that the people of Texas can understand the truth about what happened.”

The plaintiffs include the Texas Tribune, ABC News; CBS News; CNN; Dow Jones & Co.; Gannett; Graham Media Group, Houston; Graham Media Group, San Antonio; NBC News; The New York Times Company; Pro Publica, Inc.; Scripps Media; TEGNA; and The Washington Post.

The lawsuit was filed in state district court in Austin on Monday and requests the judge to order DPS to release the requested records. DPS has not issued a statement on the matter but when DPS Director McCraw testified before the state Senate Special Committee June 21, he said the law enforcement response to the shooting “was an abject failure. In law enforcement, when one officer fails, we all fail.”

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