AUSTIN (The Texas Tribune) — A state district judge on Thursday ordered the Texas Department of Public Safety to begin the process of releasing public records related to law enforcement’s response to the Uvalde school shooting, granting a request by The Texas Tribune and other news organizations.
Over a dozen news organizations sued DPS last year, accusing it of unlawfully withholding the records related to the May shooting at Robb Elementary School.
The records concern the botched police response, during which officers waited over an hour to confront the shooter who killed 19 children and two teachers. Nearly 400 officers had descended on the school by the time the shooting was over.
The 261st Civil District Court Judge Daniella DeSeta Lyttle granted a motion for summary judgment on behalf of the Tribune, its partner ProPublica and other local, state and national newsrooms. The records will not be immediately available.
Lyttle ordered DPS to produce by Aug. 31 a proposed log of redactions it wants to make to the public records. In the court order, Lyttle said that the court anticipated having a hearing to address the proposed redactions in September. DPS could choose to appeal the judgement before then. Lyttle ordered both parties to submit proposals for final judgement by July 31.
The organizations have each filed requests under the Texas Public Information Act for information detailing the response by various authorities, including law enforcement, to the massacre. The records include emails, body camera and other video footage, call logs, 911 and other emergency communications, interview notes, forensic and ballistic records, and lists of DPS personnel who responded to the tragedy, among other information. DPS did not immediately return a request for comment on Thursday evening.
Almost a year ago, a Texas House of Representatives committee released a comprehensive report that found that the state police, and other responding law enforcement agencies, failed to aggressively confront the shooter.
According to state law, records are presumed public unless a government body cites a specific exemption under the Texas Public Information Act that allows information to be withheld. DPS claimed that the records can be withheld because they are related to an ongoing investigation. The news organizations argued that there is no such investigation because the shooter’s guilt is not in question and the 18-year-old acted alone.
The other plaintiffs include The New York Times Company, The Washington Post, NBC News, CNN, ABC News, CBS News, Scripps Media and Gannett.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at www.texastribune.org. The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans – and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.