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Texas Matters: Is there a cover-up in Uvalde?

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State Sen. Roland Gutierrez speaks on the lawn of the Uvalde County Courthouse on Thursday, June 2, 2022.
Bri Kirkham
Texas Public Radio
State Sen. Roland Gutierrez speaks on the lawn of the Uvalde County Courthouse on Thursday, June 2, 2022.

The Texas Department of Public Safety is no longer investigating what happed with the mass shooting in Uvalde. The investigation has been handed over to the Uvalde County District Attorney Christina Busbee, according to Texas State Senator Roland Gutierrez.

Speaking TPR’s Texas Matters, Gutierrez said Busbee is conducting a criminal investigation into the school shooting that took the lives of 19 children and two adults. And she is not planning on sharing her findings with the public.

“The District Attorney has told DPS that they're not to issues any more reports and that the investigation is being taken over by her office. That said, I’m not really interested in criminality. I’m interested in the procedural systemic human failures that occurred by law enforcement in that hall way,” Gutierrez said.

He added that treating the Uvalde school shooting as an ongoing criminal investigation could allow the use of the controversial “Dead Suspect Loophole,” which exempts law enforcement from public records requests.

There is a lot of confusion about what happened in Uvalde on May 24. We do know that an 18-year-old entered Robb Elementary and fatally shot 19 students and two teachers. And earlier in the day, he shot and severely wounded his grandmother.

He stole her pickup truck, crashed it in a ditch next to the school. While still outside, he fired an AR-15 style rifle for approximately five minutes into the school and at onlookers and then he entered the school building unobstructed through an unlocked side-entrance door.

He went into a classroom and began to kill.

How police responded to this is not clear. But it is obvious that how law enforcement handled this should have been better. And without a fully transparent top to bottom review with accountability for mistakes, Texas law enforcement is not going to get better at this.

There will be other school shootings, and shootings at places of worship, movies theaters, and grocery stores. There will be more families with children murdered. More communities like Uvalde will be ripped apart.

Will the elected officials of Texas engage with the public to discuss improving active shooter response or will there be cover ups and spinning to protect a pro-gun agenda?

On this Texas Matters, an interview with State Senator Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat who represents Senate District 19 — an area west of San Antonio, including Uvalde.

When there is a mass shooting like at Robb Elementary School, the El Paso Walmart or the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, reporters show up to document and tell the story. The satellite trucks arrive along with lots and lots of reporters. You will see the national news anchors doing their broadcast from a parking lot near the crime scene. And the local residents are reasonable to quickly become annoyed by this intrusion during their time of utter grief. Relentless reporters with cameras and microphones showing up on their doorsteps, stepping in their flower beds, while asking probing questions about the worst day of their life. It doesn’t take long before everyone in town wants the news media to go away so they can get on with whatever life will be after the massacre.

In Uvalde the national media has actually been there longer than normal, even for a mass shooting of this scale. Typically the major networks would have moved on to the next national tragic event. But in Uvalde, the story has continued to develop. It isn’t just about that horrible shooting. There are now important questions about how the police responded.

And now there is what appears to be a cover-up about that failed police response. Officials wont answer questions about why bad decisions were made. The reporters are still in Uvalde to hold the powerful accountable.

Dan Solomon is a writer for Texas Monthly. His latest article is “Why Does the Official Story of the Uvalde School Killings Keep Changing?”

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi