Uvalde mayor, council member blast media for publishing surveillance video

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(UVALDE, Texas) — Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin made his stance on the premature publication of the surveillance video at Robb Elementary School abundantly clear to community members in attendance at the city’s council meeting Tuesday, calling the way it was released “one of the most chicken things I’ve ever seen.”

Two Texas news outlets published disturbing surveillance video Tuesday from inside Robb Elementary School during the May 24 mass shooting, as Uvalde officials and families debate the sensitive footage’s release.

Austin ABC affiliate KVUE and the Austin American-Statesman both released an edited portion of the never-before-seen footage on Tuesday, ahead of the planned release of the video by state lawmakers.

The mayor spoke to a crowd of angry citizens, including elderly women who pounded their fists and family members of victims who shouted from the gallery.

The crowd was in agreement with the mayor, as was a fellow council member, Ernest W. “Chip” King III, who claimed the outlets’ “only reason” for releasing the video was for “ratings and money.”

The hallway footage captures the 77 minutes between when the shooter first entered Robb Elementary and when he was shot.

The edited surveillance footage shows dozens of law enforcement officers, including some with protective shields, waiting in the hallway of the school. Officers didn’t breach the classroom for more than 70 minutes, even as four additional shots were fired from the classrooms 45 minutes after police arrived on the scene, the footage released by the news organizations shows.

During the time he was inside, the gunman killed 19 children and two teachers.

The Austin American-Statesman, which is part of the USA Today network, wrote a detailed opinion piece on why it chose to publish the video.

“That video was obtained by Austin American-Statesman and KVUE Senior Reporter Tony Plohetski,” KVUE said in its reporting. “Both media outlets have elected to release that footage Tuesday to provide transparency to the community, showing what happened as officials waited to enter that classroom.”

In addition, it wrote: “KVUE and our partners have kept the families in Uvalde at the forefront in our decision-making process. Several families were included in that process and were briefed on what can be heard and seen in the video. All but one agreed the video should be made public.”

During the city council meeting Tuesday, the motion to accept council member Pete Arredondo’s resignation was also carried. Arredondo, the embattled police chief for the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, was elected to the Uvalde City Council in early May and was sworn in days after the school shooting.

McLaughlin on Tuesday again expressed frustration toward the investigation, calling it “the most unprofessional” he’s “ever seen.”

“I have said from day one, that every agency that was in that hallway has to be accountable for their actions that day. Everyone. No one will be exempt. That includes local school, federal, state — everyone has to explain their actions that day. Everybody has to be accountable,” he said.

The meeting began on a positive note as a community member thanked the council and McLaughlin for attending the Unheard Voices March and Rally on Sunday in “105-degree” weather.

Another community member had questions for the council regarding who the police department reports to and how the city plans to handle security and safety as the school year approaches.

McLaughlin said “the chief of police answers to the city manager who answers to the city council.” He then said he had not spoken to the school district yet, but he has “requested to have extra law enforcement… on the first two weeks of school.”

Most people in attendance were critical as they spoke before the council members.

One woman became passionate and said she was “furious” as she described a lack of a memorial in the town to pay respects to the victims. Additional community members echoed this, questioning the city’s decision to have the flowers, crosses and other gifts removed from the original memorial area.

Confusion ensued, as the mayor admitted his understanding of the removal process might not have been correct. Another council member claimed that families were asked to clear their family member’s memorial plot, which they willingly did. The crowd at the meeting questioned the truth of this, citing mumblings in the community that contradicted the claim, including Tess Mata’s mother. The council calmed the crowd by apologizing and assuring that families would be asked of their wishes and a memorial would be recreated at a location of their choosing.

The issue of the legal purchasing age for an assault rifle was also brought up by Precinct 4 County Commissioner Ronnie Garza, who is “asking Gov. [Greg] Abbott to call a special session of the legislature to consider raising the minimum age of purchase from 18 to 21 for semi-automatic assembly.”

Garza asked the mayor if he would consider adding it to the agenda of the next council meeting, to which McLaughlin agreed. The mayor also said that while he won’t attend the next meeting on July 26, the county commissioner has his vote for the anticipated movement to ask Abbott to hold a special session.

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