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In Publishing Leaked Video, Texas News Outlets Bring Uvalde Police Failures Into Sharp Focus

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The failure of the police response to the Uvalde shooting came into even sharper focus Tuesday afternoon, with the Austin AmericanStatesman and KVUE’s publication of leaked surveillance footage from inside the school. Two versions of the video were released by the media outlets: the video the Statesman obtained in its entirety (one hour and 22 minutes) and an edited version under five minutes showing key points in law enforcement’s bungled response. 

Someone watching the uncut version would have to sit through over an hour of dozens of heavily armed police officers “walking back and forth in the hallway, some leaving the camera frame and then reappearing, others training their weapons toward the classroom, talking, making cellphone calls, sending texts and looking at floor plans, but not entering or attempting to enter the classrooms,” as the Statesman wrote. “Even after hearing at least four additional shots from the classrooms 45 minutes after police arrived on the scene,” the paper noted, “the officers waited.” Minutes later, an officer is seen pausing to use hand sanitizer from a wall-mounted dispenser.

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Aspects of the Statesman’s editorial process are apparent in the video itself—an editor’s note that states that the screams of children have been removed, for example—decisions the newspaper further addressed in a piece explaining its ultimate decision to publish. The screams of children were removed because, as executive editor Manny Ramirez wrote, “we consider this too graphic.” KVUE, the Statesman’s news partner, said when it spoke to some of the families of the victims prior to publishing, all but one wanted it released, and their only request was that the screams be muted. What is left is the sound of gunfire, and of confusion among police. Another editorial decision in the video: the gunman’s face is not blurred, but that of a child who sees him from the other end of the hallway is. “Our news organization guidelines state that we should not glorify these individuals and give them the notoriety that they seek,” Ramirez wrote. “We chose, in this instance, to show his face to chisel away at any conspiracy that we are hiding something.”

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Prior to the media outlets’ publication of the leaked video on Tuesday afternoon, the footage from inside Robb Elementary School had not been seen by the public. Hours earlier on Tuesday, Rep. Dustin Burrows, chair of the Texas House committee investigating the Uvalde shooting, said that he planned to release the video only after meeting with families in Uvalde on Sunday, when they would have the opportunity to see it first. But the media outlets said that once they obtained the video—which Gov. Greg Abbott, among other Texas state leaders, had called on law enforcement to release—they felt publishing it was in the public’s best interest. “We have to bear witness to history, and transparency and unrelenting reporting is a way to bring change,” Garcia wrote. As CNN’s Brian Stelter noted, “Sometimes a news outlet’s scoop is a tremendous source of pain for the people involved.” 

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The decision was condemned by some elected leaders and law enforcement officials, as well as some families of the victims. The media’s release of the leaked video is “one of the most chicken things I’ve ever seen,” Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said Tuesday.


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