The city of Uvalde is suing District Attorney Christina Mitchell for not handing over investigation records and materials, including police body camera footage, related to the Robb Elementary School shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead.
That's made it impossible for the city's investigator to determine how Uvalde police officers responded and if it needs to take disciplinary action against any of them, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday. Its investigator, Jesse Prado, is seeking all footage and written reports from the more than 300 police officers from 23 different agencies on the scene at the school on May 24. Mitchell, the lawsuit says, has refused to share it as she conducts her own investigation into the law enforcement response.
"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," a statement from the city reads. "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."
The district attorney is considering whether any aspects of the police response could rise to the level of criminal charges. The city investigation, meanwhile, is considering whether police officers followed department policies — and if that should result in discipline or their firing.
Over the summer, families of the victims of the shooting complained that Mitchell had refused to release evidence like 911 calls and surveillance footage as questions mounted over the police response. Early criticism of law enforcement was confirmed in July when the Austin American-Statesman published video obtained through sources that showed officers waiting in a school hallway for 77 minutes before confronting the shooter. State lawmakers, who also investigated the police response, later released some video, but no footage or other public records have come through Mitchell.
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin has blamed Mitchell, who is DA for the 38th Judicial District, which includes Uvalde County, for the lack of disclosure locally and said that she had instructed city officials that “any release of records to that incident at this time would interfere with said ongoing investigation.”
“All questions relating to body cam videos and other Robb Elementary School investigative records should be directed to the Uvalde County District Attorney and the Texas Department of Public Safety/Texas Rangers,” McLaughlin said in a statement in June.
In July, Mitchell said she had been meeting with the families of the victims individually.
“We’re trying to make sure that they’re getting the resources that they need," she said. "And then I am telling them where I am in the investigation. And so those conversations have been ongoing.”
Mitchell did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday about the new lawsuit.
In June, Steve McCraw, the executive director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, called the police response to the Robb Elementary shooting an "abject failure." In August, Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde school district police chief, was fired after it was determined that he failed to take the leadership role of incident commander during the shooting, as he should have per an active shooter policy he helped write.
Several other officers have also been fired in connection with the shooting, but there has not yet been broader accountability for the many failures identified by state lawmakers.
Earlier this week, the mother of one of the victims sued the gun manufacturer for marketing its guns to troubled and violent young buyers. The lawsuit alleges that the manufacturer's marketing encouraged the shooter to use an AR-15 to kill.