The Austin American-Statesman and its news partner KVUE on Tuesday published security video from inside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, showing in detail how police officers delayed in confronting a gunman who had just killed 19 children and two teachers. But backlash to the leak immediately followed, and was directed not only at law enforcement but also at the Statesman, which was chastised for sharing the video before Robb Elementary families had a chance to view it privately. Here’s everything you need to know:
What was published?
The Statesman and KVUE initially on Tuesday published an edited, four-minute clip. In the video, which some viewers may find disturbing, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos can be seen walking into school seemingly unchecked before entering a pair of adjoining fourth-grade classrooms and opening fire. The sound of children’s screams has been edited out of the video. Roughly three minutes later, a group of law enforcement officers can be seen moving into the hallway outside the classrooms. Those that moved closer shortly thereafter retreated back into the hallway at the sound of gunfire. After jumping through various points in time — 19, 31, 36 minutes later, and so on — the video ends as officers finally breach the classroom and kill the gunman, after 77 minutes have passed.
Later that same day, the Statesman also released the full 1 hour and 22 minute recording of the incident, which chronicles the shooter’s initial arrival at the school to the moment he is killed by law enforcement.
The decision to publish the footage came after “long and thoughtful discussions,” wrote Statesman editor Manny Garcia, in defense of the move. “Our goal is to continue to bring to light what happened at Robb Elementary, which the families and friends of the Uvalde shooting victims have long been asking for since the tragedy on May 24,” he went on. “We have to bear witness to history, and transparency with unrelenting reporting is a way to bring change.”
Outside of the police delay, the footage features a number of other disconcerting moments, including one in which a young boy (whose image is blurred) peers down the hallway and then runs away as the gunman begins shooting. At a separate point, an officer can be seen sanitizing his hands with liquid from a dispenser on the hallway wall. At another, a policeman is filmed checking his phone.
How have families reacted?
So far, not well. Though families of the victims’ have been calling for accountability and transparency as to what happened — which the leaked footage provides, to some degree — many had hoped to view the video in private. To that end, the Texas House committee investigating the incident had been planning to publicly release the video on Sunday, after showing it to victims’ families first, CNN reports.
“We were supposed to get some footage shown to us on Sunday of the filming inside the hallway and then we got a call, another parent got a call saying that someone got a hold of it,” Javier Cazares, whose daughter was killed in the shooting, told reporters in Washington, D.C. “We didn’t want any audio and these SOBs did it. It got leaked. It got shown all over the world and we are pissed.”
“I don’t care if you’re a DA, you’re a spokesperson, you’re a councilman, you’re a senator — who do you think you are to release footage like that of our children who can’t even speak for themselves — but you want to go ahead and air their final moments to the entire world,” added Angel Garza, father of 10-year-old victim Amerie Jo Garza. “What makes you think that’s okay? The least you can do is have some freaking decency for us. That is unacceptable.”
Berlina Irene Arreola, Amerie’s grandmother, told CNN that while she does want to see the video, “[a]t 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.”
How have officials reacted?
Also not well.
“I am angry that the victim’s families and the Uvalde community’s request to watch the video first before it was made public did not happen,” Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said in a written statement Tuesday night. “[I]t is unbelievable that this video was posted as part of a news story with images and audio of the violence of this incident without consideration for the families involved.”
Steven McCraw, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety who previously described the police response to the massacre as an “abject failure,” agreed with the mayor: “I am deeply disappointed this video was released before all of the families who were impacted that day and the community of Uvalde had the opportunity to view it,” he said. “Those most affected should have been among the first to see it.”
The chair of the Texas House committee investigating the shooting, state Rep. Dustin Burrows (R), was also frustrated that “the victim’s families and the Uvalde community’s requests to watch the video first … were not achieved,” he wrote on Twitter. Elsewhere, state Rep. Joe Moody (D), Speaker Pro Tempore of the Texas House, sought to clear up controversy surrounding the officer caught on camera looking at his phone, who Moody pegged as the husband of slain teacher Eva Mireles.
Will the committee still share its findings?
Yes. The House committee investigating the shooting plans to share its preliminary findings in a report to be released this weekend. The update follows “closed testimony from witnesses and law enforcement in recent weeks,” The Wall Street Journal reports. Both the Department of Public Safety and the U.S. Justice Department are conducting their own reviews, as well.
Investigators are hoping to clarify why police officers waited so long to intervene, despite training that dictates the exact opposite. The delay may have cost lives, officials and critics have said.
The committee had initially planned to make its findings, as well as the now-leaked video, public after meeting privately with victims’ families, Burrows said on Twitter on Tuesday, before the Statesman broke the story.
At the moment, it’s unclear who leaked the video to the Statesman and KVUE.