The city of Uvalde has accused Uvalde County’s top lawmaker of blocking access to information it says it needs in order to thoroughly investigate the deadly mass shooting at an elementary school that killed 19 children and two teachers.
In a complaint filed late Thursday, Uvalde officials say that Uvalde County District Attorney Christina Mitchell is forcing the city’s investigation into the May 24 shooting to stall.
“The Uvalde community has waited entirely too long for answers and transparency with regard to the Robb Elementary shooting incident,” the city said in a statement Thursday. “Despite the City of Uvalde’s efforts to amicably obtain the necessary investigative materials for its ongoing Uvalde Police Department’s Internal Affairs investigation, the District Attorney has blocked the City’s ability to obtain critical information to assess its officers’ actions and compliance with police department policies and expectations.”
The lawsuit is seeking an order compelling Mitchell to turn over “all relevant law enforcement investigation records and materials from all law enforcement agencies” related to the shooting, the statement says. The city alleges that an internal affairs review being conducted by independent investigator Jesse Prado is “significantly restricted by the scope of evidence that has not been made available to Prado” by Mitchell’s office.
The city is demanding access to investigative material from the law enforcement agencies — other than Uvalde Police — that reportedly have relevant information. This includes body-worn camera footage and photographs from border control agents, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), county sheriff deputies, constables, and school resource officers. The city is also seeking all surveillance videos from the school, the full video of the hallway camera inside the school, any video and/or audio statements investigators have obtained from agencies that sent into the building, and statements from school employees, any statements from employees of the funeral home (not named in the complaint, but likely Hillcrest Funeral Home), pictures of the crime scene, and DPS reports.
The complaint notes that Texas law governing disciplinary action against police officers requires that an investigation have “complete information” in order to determine whether misconduct occurred.
“Without complete investigatory information, the City will be detrimentally affected in fulfilling the statutory requirements related to its own officers’ conduct and fulfilling its own policies.”
The complaint says that the fact that Mitchell is conducting a criminal investigation into the shooting “should not prohibit Defendant from providing the relevant information to the City’s investigator while maintaining confidentiality of investigation materials.”
Uvalde city officials insist that any information provided will be “solely for Prado’s investigation” and subject to a confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement.
“From day one, the city’s focus is on helping the entire Uvalde community, parents who lost children, children who lost parents, and young survivors navigate through the healing process,” the city’s statement said. “Transparency and accountability are part of that process. We hope this lawsuit will allow the City’s investigation into the conduct of its officers to be completed so as to give the community and families the answers they deserve.”
Mitchell’s office did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s emailed request for comment.
The lawsuit is the latest legal twist in what shaping to be a protracted, painful battle over who bears what responsibility for the 21 lives that were lost that day. Earlier this week, two separate lawsuits were filed: survivors of the shooting filed a $27 billion class action complaint against city officials, and the mother of a murdered child sued the city, the gun manufacturer, and the local store that transferred the gun to shooter Salvador Ramos.
In June, parents of children who suffered severe injuries in the attack sued Ramos’ estate for $100 million.
Read the city of Uvalde’s complaint here.
[Photo via Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images.]
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