The chairman of a Texas legislative committee investigating the nation’s deadliest school shooting in a decade said Thursday that it’s unclear whether the small city of Uvalde’s local police department would testify before the panel voluntarily, raising more questions about when details will come out in a case where pressure is mounting for information to be released.
Besides opening and closing statements during a committee hearing in Uvalde, the public was blocked from witnessing testimony. Committee Chairman Rep. Dustin Burrows said Uvalde school district officials — including district police — were forthcoming and transparent.
"I want to make this comment: The Uvalde CISD is cooperating," Burrows said after emerging from the closed-door testimony. "We appreciate that and look forward to their testimony. There is a question mark, however, about the Uvalde Police Department itself, about whether or not they will visit with us voluntarily. And we’ll see if they do that or not,” the Lubbock Republican said.
The Uvalde Police Department did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.
The committee does have the power to subpoena evidence and testimony. Burrows revealed nothing of the findings from Thursday’s testimony, saying a statement would come later. Another hearing is scheduled for Friday.
Questions abound about why officers waited over an hour to breach the classroom where a gunman fatally shot 19 children and two teachers. Steven McCraw, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, has said the Uvalde schools police chief — who he described as the incident commander — made the “wrong decision” to not order officers to breach the classroom more quickly to confront the gunman.
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Uvalde school district Police Chief Pete Arredondo later said he didn’t consider himself the person in charge and assumed someone else had taken control of the law enforcement response. Arredondo has declined repeated requests for comment to The Associated Press.
Law enforcement officials have provided little or conflicting information since the May 24 shooting, sometimes withdrawing statements hours after making them. Officials have declined to offer details, citing ongoing investigation.
Local officials, including Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin, have indicated they are frustrated with the lack of information.
The Texas Department of Public Safety is leading the investigation and has said some accounts were preliminary and may change as more witnesses are interviewed. DPS has begun referring questions about the investigation to the Uvalde-area district attorney, Christina Mitchell Busbee.
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. The law’s exception protects information from being released in crimes for which no one has been convicted. The Texas Attorney General’s Office has ruled that it applies when a suspect is dead.