Uvalde school shooting hallway video will be released to victims’ families Sunday

Jul 12, 2022, 2:17 PM
FILE - A cross hangs on a tree at Robb Elementary School on June 3, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas, where a...
FILE - A cross hangs on a tree at Robb Elementary School on June 3, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas, where a memorial has been created to honor the victims killed in the recent school shooting. Two teachers and 19 students were killed. As public pressure mounts for more information on the deadly Uvalde school shooting, some are concerned that Texas officials will use a legal loophole to block records from being released — even to the victims' families — once the case is closed.(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

(CNN) — The Texas House committee investigating the Uvalde school shooting plans to release hallway surveillance of the police response to the massacre to victims’ families on Sunday and to the public soon thereafter, state Rep. Dustin Burrows said on Twitter.

“We will meet with members of the community first, and provide them an opportunity to see the hallway video and discuss our preliminary report. Very soon thereafter, we will release both to the public,” said Burrows, the chairman of the committee. “We feel strongly that members of the Uvalde community should have the opportunity to see the video and hear from us before they are made public.”

The intention of the committee and its professional staff is to meet with the families of the 21 victims in private in Uvalde and provide them with a hard copy of the preliminary report and a link to the video, a source close to the committee said. The committee is also planning to answer questions from the families about the findings, the source said.

The video is expected to offer primary evidence of what responding police were doing when a gunman opened fire inside adjoining elementary school classrooms on May 24, fatally shooting 19 young students and two teachers. Law enforcement officers arrived at the scene within minutes but waited in a nearby hallway for about 77 minutes before they breached the door and killed the gunman.

What officers were doing in those 77 minutes remains largely unclear, and some officials have questioned the trustworthiness of the various investigations working to understand what went wrong that day.

Last month, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Col. Steven McCraw criticized that delay as an “abject failure,” in part citing evidence from the hallway surveillance video. Some images from the video were obtained by the Texas Tribune and Austin American-Statesman and showed that officers had tactical gear and significant firepower — including rifles and a tactical shield — well before they ultimately breached the door.

Burrows has pushed for the release of the video to the public amid scrutiny of the police response.

“I can tell people all day long what it is I saw, the committee can tell people all day long what we saw, but it’s very different to see it for yourself, and we think that’s very important,” Burrows said.

However, he said last week he was prohibited from doing so because he signed a nondisclosure agreement with DPS. He also released a letter in which DPS said that it agrees that the video will bring “clarity” to what happened but explained that the Uvalde district attorney “has objected to releasing the video.”

CNN has requested comment from Uvalde District Attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee on Friday and on Sunday about why she objects to the release of the video, but has not heard back.


Victims’ families react to coming video


Berlina Irene Arreola, the grandmother of Uvalde school shooting victim Amerie Jo Garza, told CNN her family has “mixed emotions” about whether they want to see the hallway surveillance video.

“We do, I do” want to see the video,” she said. “At the same time, I’m afraid of how I’m going to feel because right now we have so much anger, we have so many mixed emotions. Hurt more than anything, because of what happened. Then anger, because we’re not getting the answers that we need.

“Seeing that, I think is just going to make everybody else more angry, knowing that they were just standing there, basically doing nothing for that long period of time. They may say they were waiting or they were getting prepared. Seventy seven minutes to get prepared is way too long,” she said.

Amerie Jo’s stepfather, Angel Garza, told CNN he feels like he knows more about the timeline of events for the Highland Park parade shooting last week than about the shooting in Uvalde in May.

“And that’s wrong, that is so wrong,” Garza said. “We’ve had multiple people tell us that they’ve never seen anything like this — agencies arguing, fighting, pointing the finger at each other. Nobody wants to admit that they were wrong, and our daughter isn’t here anymore. We deserve to know what happened.”


What the video and report will show


The video and preliminary report are expected to clarify what police were actually doing as they waited in the hallway and will contradict earlier public statements and official reports.

For example, a report just last week from the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center stated that an armed Uvalde police officer spotted the gunman outside the school and asked for permission to shoot.

However, the source close to the committee said this account is not true and did not happen. Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin also refuted the account as untrue.

And on Monday night, the assistant director of ALERRT, John Curnutt, said their findings were based on two statements from an officer that were then contradicted by a third statement.

“At the time we released our initial after-action, the information we had on this particular officer came from the officer’s two previous statements given to investigators,” he said in a statement. “We were not aware that just prior to us releasing our initial after-action, the officer gave a third statement to investigators that was different from the first two statements.”

In addition, the hallway video of the response is “wrenching,” said Tony Plohetski, a reporter for the Austin American-Statesman who has watched the surveillance footage.

The video begins shortly after the gunman entered the school at 11:33 a.m. In the video, the 18-year-old gunman enters a classroom and “you hear a hail of gunfire,” Plohetski said. Minutes later, a group of law enforcement officers arrive at the room and there is another exchange of gunfire.

“You see the police officers actually getting blown back. One of them actually touches his head,” and suspects an injury, he said.

Over the next hour of the video, officers converge on the scene and gear up with helmets, assault rifles, ballistic shields, and tear gas canisters. But they do not take action.

“Essentially they stand there for an hour as these minutes tick by,” he said. “It’s not until 12:50 that we then see those police officers move to that classroom, breach the door, and take down the gunman.”

The reporter said the video intensifies questions about the response from local, state and federal agencies on scene.

“As to why it was handled the way it did and why the police did not move with a greater sense of urgency, I don’t think we’ve gotten to the truth of that yet,” he said.

“This video, once it is finally made public, is going to be very disturbing to many people and, I think, really deepen the tragedy that happened that day.”

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Uvalde school shooting hallway video will be released to victims’ families Sunday