State Sen. Roland Gutierrez sues DPS for not releasing Uvalde shooting records

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, speaks during a Texas Senate Democratic Caucus press conference urging Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special session to address gun violence in the wake of the recent mass shooting in Uvalde at the Capitol on Jun. 20, 2022. (Jordan Vonderhaar For The Texas Tribune, Jordan Vonderhaar For The Texas Tribune)

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State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde, is suing the Texas Department of Public Safety over records related to the deadly shooting at Robb Elementary last month.

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“In the wake of the senseless tragedy, the people of Uvalde and Texas have demanded answers from their government. To date, they have been met with lies, misstatements, and shifts of blame,” Gutierrez said in a lawsuit filed Wednesday.

State and local Uvalde officials have fought the release of records that could provide clarity on the botched emergency response to the shooting that killed 19 children and two educators. Law enforcement responding to the shooting waited more than an hour on the scene before breaking into the classroom to kill the shooter.

Gutierrez said he filed an open records request on May 31 for documentation about police presence and ballistics at the shooting, and he still has not received a response. Per state law, DPS had 10 business days to either respond or make a case to the attorney general.

Information released through open records requests, including body camera footage, could explain why DPS troopers did not act sooner, Gutierrez told The Texas Tribune.

Ninety-one DPS troopers were at the scene, the majority of which were from Operation Lone Star, Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw told a state Senate committee Tuesday. Operation Lone Star, Gutierrez said, is a “response to a border security problem that we’ve seen fail time, time and time again, and now it’s failed our children.”

The state has invested about $4 billion dollars in Operation Lone Star. Those funds should have resulted in joint training between DPS troopers and local police, and a faster emergency response at Robb Elementary that day.

DPS did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

ProPublica and the Tribune also submitted about 70 public information requests related to emergency response documentation during the shooting, including 911 audio recordings, body and police car camera footage, and communications among local, state and federal agencies. Four weeks after the shooting, government officials have not provided the news organizations a single record related to the emergency response.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s office, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the U.S. Marshals Service and the city of Uvalde have asked the state attorney general for permission to withhold some records. In most cases, the agencies are arguing that releasing information could interfere with ongoing law enforcement investigations.

Abbott’s office on Tuesday said all information related to the shooting has been shared with the public or is in the expedited process of being released. Full results of the ongoing investigation by the Texas Rangers and the FBI will also be made public, according to the governor’s office.

That same day, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said city officials have been left out of briefings related to the investigation from entities, such as DPS, the Texas Legislature, the Uvalde County District Attorney’s office and the FBI.

McLaughlin accused state authorities of selectively releasing information about last month’s school shooting to scapegoat local law enforcement and intentionally leaving out details about the state’s response to the massacre. He said he had been asked by other officials to refrain from sharing details about the investigation while it was ongoing, but said Tuesday he would now start releasing that information as it became available to city officials.

“The gloves are off. If we know it, we will share it,” he said.

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