TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (Nexstar) — In some of her first public remarks since the Robb Elementary school shooting on May 24, the Uvalde County district attorney explained why she is withholding records during a lawsuit hearing Thursday, noting the investigation could take years.
Uvalde DA Christina Mitchell Busbee answered questions in a Travis County District Court for a hearing in the lawsuit brought by Texas Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, who sued the Texas Department of Public Safety. His lawsuit seeks various records he requested under public information laws that could provide more clarity on the emergency response following the school shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers.
“I believe that we need to have a broad scope of what happened. Every adults’ actions to see if we have any criminal charges. I don’t know that at this time, but I am willing to wait to get everything to find out,” Mitchell Busbee said during the hearing.
During the hearing, DPS Director Col. Steven McCraw reiterated he has not fulfilled Gutierrez’s open records requests — many of which have also been requested by Nexstar and many more media outlets — due to concerns cited by Mitchell Busbee.
Mitchell Busbee cited several reasons for why she believes some of these records — such as 911 phone calls, additional bodycam footage, and DPS’ policy manual for active shooter situations — mainly arguing the release could get in the way of her investigation and possible prosecution.
Both she and lawyers from the Office of Attorney General arguing on her behalf said releasing such records could not only interfere with her ability to build a case but also affect witness accounts.
Aside from looking into law enforcement action that day, she suggested she was looking at prosecution for potential accomplices to the 18-year-old gunman. The House Investigative Committee’s report did not suggest that the gunman acted with the help of others and Mitchell Busbee did not detail who those people may be.
“What happens is that people, witnesses, change their stories. They lawyer up. So if a suspect does not know that they are a target of an investigation, then they’re more apt to cooperate, provide statements,” she said.
Gutierrez pushed back on her suggestion of other accomplices, noting “the shooter is dead,” and the documents he is requesting doesn’t pertain to possible suspects but law enforcement response.
“I think it’s a bit preposterous. I mean, we all know that the shooter is dead. There’s no co-defendants,” the senator said in an interview with Nexstar. “What we’re trying to uncover in these open records requests are police malfeasance to a response.”
Mitchell Busbee also said she was concerned about “re-traumatizing” Uvalde families by releasing some of this information.
Robert Wilson, an attorney for a victim’s family, argued parts of this investigation will not change over time and therefore the families deserve the full truth now.
“They also have a need for this information because they have their own investigation that they need to do to determine if civil rights were violated on behalf of their loved ones,” Wilson said. “These families are in limbo.”
Other revelations during Thursday’s hearing
During cross examination, McCraw said that 34 of the DPS troopers and other law enforcement who responded to the shooting have bodycam footage from that day. So far, only seven bodycam videos of Uvalde city police officers have been made public, after the mayor released them on July 18.
Additionally McCraw said DPS had a drone on scene, because responders “were concerned about the subject exiting through the roof area.” That drone footage is also still not public.
Nexstar reached out to DPS for additional comment on Thursday’s hearing and did not hear back.
Judge Catherine Mauzy agreed to state attorneys’ request for post-hearing briefing up until 5 p.m. on Monday, but said she wants to make a decision “sooner rather than later.”