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Judge Rules for Media Outlets; DPS must Release Uvalde Shooting Documents

A state district judge in Austin has ruled that the Texas Department of Public Safety must release records related to last year’s Uvalde school shooting, the deadliest in Texas history.

Nineteen students and two teachers died in the massacre at Robb Elementary School.

In the weeks following the shooting, attorney Laura Prather of TAB Associate Member law firm Haynes Boone organized a coalition of 17 media outlets whose requests for information about the incident, and law enforcement’s flawed response to the shooting, were denied by the DPS and local law enforcement agencies.

Individual media outlets had sought law enforcement body camera and dash camera video, as well as other records related to the shooting.

The group sued the DPS last year and on Thursday, District Court Judge Daniella DeSeta Lyttle granted a motion for summary judgment in favor of the media coalition.

"This is a huge victory for the community of Uvalde and for transparency in the state of Texas,” Prather said.

“Disclosing all of the requested law enforcement information - not just bits and pieces of it - will help the people of Uvalde, the news media and the public at large hold public officials accountable in hopes of preventing a similar tragedy in the future.”

Lyttle ordered the coalition and the DPS to file final judgement proposals by July 14.

The DPS must also submit a proposed list of redactions to its records by Aug. 31.

There could be another court hearing to review them in September.

The DPS has not said publicly if it will appeal the decision.

“Dead Suspect Loophole”

The DPS and other law enforcement agencies have refused to release information citing a Texas Public Information Act exception that allows law enforcement to withhold information because it relates to an ongoing investigation.

The suspect in the massacre was killed by law enforcement more than an hour after the deadly incident began.

The news outlets argued that there was nothing left to investigate in the case as the suspect was dead.

He acted alone and his guilt was not in question.

It is a prime example of the so-called “dead suspect loophole” in the TPIA.

Information may be withheld if a case does not result conviction or deferred adjudication, which will never happen in this case.

Body camera video provided to the media by Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, chairman of the Texas House Special Investigative Committee on the Robb Elementary Shooting, showed DPS and local law enforcement officers, numbering more than 300 onsite, waiting for more than an hour before confronting the gunman.

A scathing report by the House committee concluded that law forces did not aggressively confront the shooter as they should have.

Media attention to the incident, and law enforcement’s lack of transparency, proved crucial to the Legislature’s passage of HB 30 by Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, a bill aimed at addressing the TPIA loophole.

The provision has stymied Texas families and newsrooms for years and this year’s effort was fourth session in which a bill had been filed to correct the problem.

The final version of HB 30 was heavily edited by the Texas House and Senate as it moved through the legislature, but the “as passed” version of HB 30 will allow Texas citizens to access more information that will help hold accountable the law enforcement that taxpayers fund.

Gov. Abbott let the bill become law without his signature.

The measure passed the House and Senate in near unanimous votes.

The law takes effect Sept. 1.

Questions? Contact TAB's .

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