A state district judge in Travis County, Texas, has issued a final judgment ordering the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to release law enforcement records related to the May 2022 Uvalde school shooting. The ruling comes more than a year after a consortium of news organizations, including ProPublica and The Texas Tribune, sued for access to the records. The judge’s order requires DPS to fulfill 28 records requests within 20 days, with redactions to protect personal information and the identities of minor victims.
The requested records are expected to shed light on the failed police response to the Uvalde school shooting, where officers waited over an hour to confront the shooter armed with an AR-15-style rifle. The shooting resulted in the deaths of 19 children and two teachers. The preliminary order was issued by Judge Daniella DeSeta Lyttle in June, and the final judgment was issued on Tuesday.
Laura Prather, a media law attorney representing the news organizations, stated that DPS had promised to disclose the investigation’s results once completed in February but failed to provide any answers to the affected families. If DPS appeals the ruling, it could limit the ability of the victims’ families to file federal lawsuits alleging civil rights violations by the police. The statute of limitations for such complaints is two years.
DPS had previously argued that releasing the records could interfere with ongoing investigations into the shooting. However, DPS claimed to have completed its initial report on the shooting and provided it to the Uvalde County district attorney. The news organizations, including ProPublica and The Texas Tribune, have separately obtained materials from the investigation and published stories highlighting multiple failures. On Tuesday, they will release an article and a documentary in collaboration with FRONTLINE, revealing new details about the police response.
Uvalde District Attorney Christina Mitchell opposed the disclosure of records to the news organizations, citing potential harm to her investigation into potential criminal charges based on the DPS investigation. Mitchell claimed that all the families of the deceased children supported blocking the release of the records. However, attorneys representing the majority of the 21 families refuted this claim, asserting that the information should be made public. Mitchell was later removed from the case.