Texas State Police can keep Uvalde’s records secret for now, judge says

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, was one of the most vocal lawmakers in the Department of Public Safety’s handling of the Robb Elementary School massacre. Credit: Evan L’Roy for The Texas Tribune

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A state district judge ruled Wednesday that the Department of Public Safety did not have to turn over records related to the Uvalde school shooting sought by the state senator. Roland Gutierrezwho had pursued the state police in hopes of securing them.

Travis County’s 419th Civil District Court Judge Catherine A. Mauzy’s order, however, was narrow and evaded the question of whether state police can withhold records regarding its response to the May 24 massacre. at Robb Elementary School. Mauzy concluded that Gutierrez had improperly filed his request under the Texas Public Information Act, the state’s public records law, and therefore DPS was not obligated to complete it.

Still, the result grants a reprieve to state police, who fought to keep details of 91 officers’ reaction to the shooting secret. Gutierrez, whose district includes Uvalde, wrote a letter to DPS Director Steve McCraw on May 30, requesting the agency’s training manuals as well as any documents detailing how the state police responded to the shooting that day. At a hearing last week, DPS officials said the request should have been directed to the agency’s media relations office.

Gutierrez said Wednesday he disagreed with the decision and suggested the state police were simply looking for an excuse not to comply with his request. The lawmaker was among state officials most critical of the DPS’s handling of the shooting.

“It is utter nonsense that the Department of Public Security continues to fight the most benign distribution of documents, such as a training manual,” Gutierrez said. “And they refuse to do so because they are guilty of their negligence and wrongdoing that day.”

During a hearing on the case last week, the Uvalde County prosecutor urged the judge to side with the DPS. Prosecutor Christina Busbee has said since late May that she has asked all government agencies not to release any information about the Uvalde shooting for fear of jeopardizing ongoing investigations by the Texas Rangers, a division of the DPS, and the FBI.

Since then, multiple government agencies, including state police, have refused to respond to The Texas Tribune’s request for documents. Many cited an exemption in the state public records law that allows documents to be withheld if they relate to an ongoing investigation.

However, DPS did not always follow Busbee’s request. McCraw June 21st testified for more than four hours before a Senate committee investigating the shooting. He blamed much of the blame for the late police response to the shooting on Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo and spent little time detailing the actions of state troopers. .

A separate trial against DPS, filed by a consortium of news organizations including The Texas Tribune and ProPublica, seeks to persuade a judge to compel state police to release Uvalde’s records that reporters submitted under the law on public information. This case is ongoing.

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This article originally appeared in The Texas Grandstand at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/08/10/dps-uvalde-texas-state-police-gutierrez-lawsuit/.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, member-supported newsroom that informs and engages Texans about politics and state politics. Learn more at texastribune.org.

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