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UVALDE — On the same day that a Texas House committee investigating the Uvalde school shooting announced plans to release footage of law enforcement’s response to the incident, a video showing police waiting more than an hour in the school hallway before confronting the shooter was reported by the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV.
[“If there’s kids in there, we need to go in”: Officers in Uvalde were ready with guns, shields and tools — but not clear orders]
The apparent leak of the video before the families of the victims could view it sparked anger from local and state leaders.
At a meeting of Uvalde City Council on Tuesday evening, Mayor Don McLaughlin said it was unprofessional to leak the video to the media. He said the families deserved to have seen the video before anyone else.
“The way this video came out today was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen,” the mayor said, pausing before cursing, at the meeting attended by residents and families affected by the shooting.
State Rep. Dustin Burrows, a Republican from Lubbock and chairman of the committee, said earlier Tuesday that he planned to lead a private briefing for the families of the victims in Uvalde on Sunday morning, allowing them to view video from the hallway of a CCTV camera at Robb Elementary School and discuss the committee’s preliminary report. Then the committee would release the video and report to the public and answer questions from reporters, he said.
[What we know, minute by minute, about how the Uvalde shooting and police response unfolded]
But hours after that announcement, the Statesman and KVUE released a one-hour, 22-minute version of the video, edited to remove the sound of children screaming and to obscure the identity of a student who fled the shooter in the hallway. . It shows officers quickly arriving on the scene and approaching two classrooms where the shooter, an 18-year-old Uvalde resident, was shooting. Officers retreated after receiving gunfire and did not approach for over an hour, when several entered one of the classrooms and fatally shot the gunman who killed 19 students and two teachers.
Several law enforcement officers from Uvalde, the state Department of Public Safety, the US Border Patrol and other agencies can be seen in the video. Many were heavily armed and had shields but waited over an hour before storming the classroom.
Much of the details shown in the video have already leaked to the media and the details released by law enforcement. The Texas Tribune reviewed the footage on June 20, releasing a detailed written account based on the footage, other media reports and law enforcement records. Both the Tribune and the Statesman also published stills of security footage.
But the video itself shows in excruciating detail the wait outside the classroom.
Its release sparked frustration with some state officials who said they wanted families of the victims to have the opportunity to see the footage first. Burrows said on Tuesday ahead of the video’s release that “we believe members of the Uvalde community should have the opportunity to view the video and hear from us before it is made public.”
After, he said he was “disappointed”. And DPS director Steven McCraw said in a statement that “those most affected should have been among the first to see it.”
It is unclear who provided the video to Statesman and KVUE.
The footage is being released over the objection of the Uvalde County prosecutor, who had ordered the DPS not to provide the video to the committee.
“As I stated during my testimony before the Senate Select Committee to Protect All Texans, this video provides horrific evidence that law enforcement’s response to the attack on Robb Elementary on May 24 was a dismal failure,” McCraw said Tuesday. “In law enforcement, when one officer fails, we all fail.”
Since last month, the three-person House committee — which also includes Democratic El Paso state Rep. Joe Moody and former Republican state Supreme Court justice Eva Guzman — has been questioning more of a dozen witnesses in camera, including law enforcement and school employees.
Their report will be the second investigation into the law enforcement response to the shooting to be made public. Last week, the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center, located at Texas State University in San Marcos, released its full account of police tactics during the shooting.
Moody, the only Democrat on the committee, said on Twitter that the report the House committee is preparing to release on Sunday will provide more context to the video.
“A piecemeal news release continues to tell part of a story that people deserve the whole truth about,” he said.
McCraw said Uvalde Schools Police Chief Pete Arredondo was primarily responsible for a flawed response to the shooting. CISD Uvalde Superintendent Hal Harrell furloughed Arredondo last month. Arredondo was elected to the Uvalde town council before the shooting but was not sworn in until after the massacre. Arredondo tendered his resignation from the city council earlier this month. At Tuesday’s meeting, council members formally accepted that resignation and called a special election to take his seat in November.
Since the May 24 shooting, community members have repeatedly pressed authorities for details of what happened. Those calls escalated after Gov. Greg Abbott and DPS officials initially made several inaccurate statements about the police response. The governor and McCraw have since said video footage from school surveillance cameras should be released.
In Uvalde on Tuesday night, residents told McLaughlin it was his job to advocate for families who lost loved ones and to get details of the inquests.
Resident Diana Olvedo-Karau said city council members must aggressively stand up for families.
“If that means losing your seat, so be it,” she said.
Uvalde pastor Daniel Myers told the mayor he needed to ‘stop being so nice and walking on toes’.
The mayor said he was trying to get answers for the families.
Myers replied, “Well, you need a bigger foot because they step on you.”
Adam Martinez, whose 8-year-old son was at school during the shooting, said the mayor blaming others is an excuse not to accept responsibility for not providing families with information about the investigation.
“We trusted him, but he didn’t give us anything,” Martinez said. “He can swear, but what we need is information.”
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