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Uvalde hires private law firm to block footage and audio from school shooting

The city has received 148 public records requests, and argues they should not have to respond to any of them because it could include "highly embarrassing information."

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Libby Emmons Brooklyn NY
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The City of Uvalde does not appear to want to answer questions on the school shooting that occurred on May 24 and stole the lives of 19 children and two teachers. To that end, they have hired a private law firm to argue that they have no obligation to release those records. This comes as journalists and parents were prevented from attending a meeting where surveillance footage from that fateful day was shown.

Lawyers for the town argued that the records, including body cam footage from officers, photos, 911 calls, emails, text messages, criminal records, and additional materials, could include "highly embarrassing information," according to a letter obtained by Vice. The city has received 148 public records requests, and argues they should not have to respond to any of them. Concerns have mounted over police mishandling of the situation.

"The City has not voluntarily released any information to a member of the public," wrote attorney for Uvalde Cynthia Trevino to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Trevino, of the firm Denton Navaro Rocha Bernal & Zech, was seeking a determination from Paxton as to what information the city is required to make public and what information they can hold back from public criticism.

The Texas Department of Public Safety has also implored Paxton to suppress body cam footage due to the potential for "weaknesses" in police response to be exposed. Children in classrooms 111 and 112 were subjected to massacre by a teen gunman on May 24, while officers waited up to an hour before trying to get into the classroom to either prevent the bloodshed or save the victims before they bled out and died.

Trevino and her firm are being retained by the city despite Uvalde having an in-house attorney. That attorney is trying to suppress communications from that office from being made public. Uvalde said that their city offices had "received 148 separate public records requests," and is undertaking to argue that they have no obligation to respond to any of those.

That letter went on to contend that because of lawsuits pending against the city, Uvalde and its police would be "exempted from releasing a wide variety of records," according to Vice. Trevino claims further that some of the records could contain "highly embarrassing information" and materials that are "not of legitimate concern to the public." These materials, the letter states, could expose "methods, techniques, and strategies for preventing and predicting crime." Additionally, there are concerns that "regard... emotional/mental distress."

Police do not want to release information on "police officer training guides, policy and procedure manuals, shift change schedules, security details, and blueprints of secured facilities," stating that these could be used to reveal "methods, techniques, and strategies for preventing and predicting crime." They could also potentially show that officers did not follow their training and protocols.

The Uvalde police response to the shooting, carried out by a lone gunman, is currently under investigation by the Texas Rangers and the FBI, along with the Uvalde County District Attorney's office.

The full letter is reproduced below:

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