There is an interesting pair of headlines out this weekend related to the Uvalde school shooting. One, from NBC, claims that the Uvalde police have “agreed to cooperate” with an ongoing probe. That announcement came from state representative Dustin Burrows who is the chair of the legislative committee investigating the shooting. He claimed that the city of Uvalde Police Department has agreed to send witnesses to testify before the committee. So that sounds helpful, right? It’s been like pulling teeth so far, but we might actually get the information we need as districts across the country consider additional safety reforms.
But that makes this second headline from Vice seem all the stranger. It turns out that the City of Uvalde and its police department have retained the services of a private law firm. And yesterday, that law firm claimed that the municipal government and the police department are not obligated to release any records related to the shooting to the media or the public.
The City of Uvalde and its police department are working with a private law firm to prevent the release of nearly any record related to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in which 19 children and two teachers died, according to a letter obtained by Motherboard in response to a series of public information requests we made. The public records Uvalde is trying to suppress include body camera footage, photos, 911 calls, emails, text messages, criminal records, and more.
“The City has not voluntarily released any information to a member of the public,” the city’s lawyer, Cynthia Trevino, who works for the private law firm Denton Navarro Rocha Bernal & Zech, wrote in a letter to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. The city wrote the letter asking Paxton for a determination about what information it is required to release to the public, which is standard practice in Texas.
So on what basis are the attorneys claiming that the city and the police department should be exempt from releasing records to the public? You may want to make sure you’re sitting down before reading this part. The law firm is claiming that some of the records could be “highly embarrassing,” involve “emotional/mental distress,” and are “not of legitimate concern to the public.”
I had to rewrite this paragraph several times to avoid publishing any NSFW language here. But are you kidding me? “Highly embarrassing?” I suppose if you screwed up your job badly enough (and clearly someone did) it might be embarrassing, but that comes with the territory and it could happen to anyone. The rest of the excuses offered are even worse. If you think standing around outside the school during an active shooter event might be emotionally or mentally distressing, perhaps you should talk to the students and teachers who watched their classmates and fellow educators getting gunned down in a classroom. Or check with the parents of those who were lost, injured or in danger.
Claiming that the records are not of legitimate interest to the public is simply insulting. Something went very badly wrong with that school’s safety protocols. Until we know where the wheels came off, we can’t be sure that those deficiencies are being properly addressed. And every other school in the country needs that information as well. Don’t even get me started on the fact that both the school and the police department are all funded by the taxpayers, so their records are a matter of public interest by definition.
In other news, it has now been revealed that two officers had the chance to shoot the gunman, but elected not to for fear of striking children or teachers.
Two Uvalde city police officers passed up a fleeting chance to shoot a gunman outside Robb Elementary School before he went on to kill 21 people inside the school, a senior sheriff’s deputy told The New York Times.
That would mean a second missed opportunity for officers to stop Salvador Ramos before the May 24 rampage inside the school that killed 19 children and two teachers. Officials said that a school district police drove past Ramos without seeing him in the school parking lot.
The unidentified officers, one of whom was armed with an AR-15-style rifle, said they feared hitting children playing in the line of fire outside the school, Chief Deputy Ricardo Rios of nearby Zavala County told the newspaper.
The opportunity to take the shot lasted only seconds according to the officers. I suppose we can’t fault them entirely if there were children playing in the schoolyard beyond where the shooter was walking. If they had taken the shot and missed, they could have potentially wounded or even killed a student while alerting the suspect to their presence. That would likely have spurred him to rush into the school all the faster to take cover.
From the moment the shooter reached room temperature, this entire investigation has reeked of denial, blameshifting, and secrecy. An event that was already a staggering tragedy has now begun leaking poison into the environment because the citizens of that area can’t possibly be expected to trust their law enforcement officials moving forward. And the Chief of Police was scheduled to be seated on the City Council. It’s almost too much to wrap your mind around.