“Information Is Starting to Come to Light”: Media Outlets Aren’t Letting Up on Uvalde Police Failures

Uvalde mayor Don McLaughlin announced he was going to “be throwing people under the bus” at Tuesday’s city council meeting. The city official proceeded to accuse Steve McCraw, the head of the Texas state police, of selectively leaking information for political purposes. “McCraw has continued to, whether you want to call it, lie, leak … mislead or misstate information in order to distance his own troopers and rangers from the response,” McLaughlin said of the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, which is leading an investigation into last month’s Uvalde shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead. 

Earlier on Tuesday, McCraw testified at a state Senate hearing that the police response in Uvalde was an “abject failure” and police could have stopped the shooter within three minutes if Uvalde school district police Chief Pete Arredondo had acted more decisively. “The only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from entering Room 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children,” McCraw said. (Arredondo has claimed he didn’t consider himself the person in charge and assumed someone else had taken control of the police response, per AP.)

The finger-pointing between various authorities comes as a trickle of details about the police response has turned into a deluge, despite efforts by government officials to contain what has amounted to disastrous revelations. “Public understanding of the response to the tragedy has been marred by refusals by state and local agencies to release public records, efforts by local officials to bar journalists from public meetings, and the closed-door nature of the hearings held by state lawmakers,” the Texas Tribune noted Monday, in a piece providing one of the most detailed accounts of what happened inside Robb Elementary School to date. 

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When I spoke to Tribune editor-in-chief Sewell Chan the day after the shooting, for a piece on the debate over publishing graphic images from such tragedies, he said his reporters were “trying to piece together what happened”—an effort that hasn’t let up nearly a month later.  The Tribune’s Monday story, based on surveillance footage and law-enforcement transcripts, also cited reporting by other news outlets—both local and national—that have helped advance the story of Uvalde and hold law enforcement to account. For example, a recent San Antonio Express-News report alleged, per an anonymous source, that Arredondo and his team did not check the classroom doors to determine if they were unlocked. A key finding in Tribune’s Monday story built upon that revelation, as CJR’s Jon Allsop noted. According to Tribune, no security footage from inside the school showed police officers attempting to open the doors to the adjoined classrooms where the shooter was.

“It took a bit…but information is starting to come to light,” CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz tweeted Monday, in anticipation of McCraw’s testimony. “Local reporters [are] starting to get access to information.” Others have also highlighted the critical role of journalists in the ongoing search for answers.

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