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State Senator Gutierrez sues Texas DPS for Uvalde shooting records

Your Wednesday Afternoon Headlines, June 22, 2022
Your Wednesday Afternoon Headlines, June 22, 2022 03:27

AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) — The Texas State Senator representing the district that includes Uvalde filed a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Safety on June 22, 2022, accusing the agency of unlawfully denying an open records request.

Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat who represents District 19, said he first sent the open records request to DPS on May 31, 2022 asking for "several categories of information." District 19 includes parts of San Antonio, Del Rio, Eagle Pass, Uvalde, and Universal City.

He said the agency did not properly handle his request for documents related to the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary that left 19 students and two teachers dead. Sen. Gutierrez has previously called for Texas DPS to be more transparent in its investigation.

Democratic Texas state Senator Roland Gutierrez interrupts a press conference held by Texas Governor Greg Abbott in Uvalde, Texas, on May 27, 2022.
Democratic Texas state Senator Roland Gutierrez interrupts a press conference held by Texas Governor Greg Abbott in Uvalde, Texas, on May 27, 2022. Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

According to Texas law, DPS had 10 business days to either respond to Sen. Gutierrez's request or ask the Texas Attoney General for an exception. Sen. Gutierrez said that the DPS has neither responded to his request nor asked the attorney general for a decision.

In Texas, government records can only be excluded from public disclosure under certain circumstances. State bodies are legally required to to ask the attorney general for an opinion if they wish to withhold information. 

If they fail to do so in a reasonable amount of time, "the information requested in writing is presumed to be subject to required public disclosure and must be released unless there is a compelling reason to withhold the information."

Information can be withheld from the public in certain circumstances, including if the attorney general determines that the requested records include confidential information or that their release would interfere with "the detection, investigation, or prosecution of a crime."

In a statement, Sen. Gutierrez said:

"In the wake of this massacre, the State of Texas has completely failed to provide the community of Uvalde with truthful answers. Weeks have come and gone, and yet families who lost their children have not been told by their government the basic information about who was on site as their children bled, what tools were at their disposal to stop the gunman, and exactly why they decided to wait instead of act... The community of Uvalde deserves answers now, so that we can begin to heal and make sure a massacre like this never happens again."

Last week, Sen. Gutierrez criticized the Uvalde County District Attorney's Office for using the investigation as an excuse to deny nearly 150 requests for public records on the case. 

He argued that this reasoning isn't valid. "You and I both know that the defendant is dead, the perpetrator is dead, so I don't know why we are hiding behind a criminal investigation when indeed there are no suspects any longer."

CBS 11 has reached out to Texas DPS for comment.

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