Politics

Texas Senator who represents Uvalde sues DPS over school shooting information request

Gutierrez, a San Antonio Democrat whose district includes Uvalde, said DPS has “unlawfully denied” his request and hasn’t responded to the senator within the timeframe set forth in Texas law.

AP Photo / Jae C. Hong
Texas state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, speaks during a news conference held at a town square in Uvalde, Texas, Thursday, June 2, 2022. 19 students and two teachers were killed in last month’s elementary school shooting in the town.

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez sued the Texas Department of Public Safety Wednesday after the agency denied the lawmaker's request for records related to last month's shooting in Uvalde.

Gutierrez, a San Antonio Democrat whose district includes Uvalde, said DPS has "unlawfully denied" his request and hasn't responded to the senator within the timeframe set forth in Texas law.

Gutierrez said he made the request May 31. Under state law an agency that receives a request for information must respond to the applicant or seek an attorney general's opinion on whether the information may be blocked from disclosure. Gutierrez said he has not received a response.

The lawmaker also accused the agency of spreading "misinformation and outright lies," while failing to provide Uvalde residents – including families of the victims – with information about the response.

“We’ve seen a lot of finger-pointing from law enforcement, specifically the Texas Department of Public Safety pointing the fingers at every other law enforcement agency but themselves,” Gutierrez said. “I’m not here to cast blame, I’m here to try to find out, ‘how do we solve this into the future?'”

The shooting at Robb Elementary School claimed the lives of 19 children and two schoolteachers.

The lawsuit, filed in Travis County district court, comes as the police response to the shooting has been widely criticized by the victims' family members, the press and even among other law enforcement agencies involved. Official statements from authorities since the shooting have provided conflicting reports of what happened that day, and access to public information has been withheld by local and state agencies.

In his complaint Gutierrez provides a timeline of some of what he calls “a concerted effort to misinform.”

The complaint also outlines how request for information from media outlets have largely been spurned and some of the reasons agencies have given to withhold information, including one from DPS that releasing body camera footage "would provide criminals with ‘invaluable information.'"

But Gutierrez asserts that similar information has been made available in prior investigations.

“In fact, the attorney general has previously held that release of routine investigative procedures, techniques that are commonly known, and routine personnel information would not interfere with law enforcement and crime prevention,” the filing says.

Gutierrez's lawsuit also notes that some responses denying the requests cited a concern over interfering with an ongoing investigation by 38th Judicial District Attorney, Christina Mitchell Busbee.

But according to the complaint, Busbee has specifically said she is "not investigating anything," and so such concern is unfounded, the complaint argues.

“If there is no investigation, the records should be released,” the complaint says. “And, the truth should be made plain to every Texan.”

Another exemption officials have used is the so-called "Dead Suspect Loophole," as Texas Public Radio reported. That exemption was cited because the suspect, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, died in police custody, according to the report.

Texas DPS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Houston Public Media’s Cory McGinnis contributed to this report.

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