HOUSTON — The city of Uvalde has hired its own attorneys to represent it in the aftermath of the mass shooting last month that left 21 people dead.
The city hired Denton Navarro Rocha Bernal & Zech, P.C., an Austin-based firm that handles labor relations, litigation and counsel for government entities in Texas, per its website.
On Thursday, the law firm sent a brief to the Texas Attorney General’s Office asking that public information requests regarding the tragedy be withheld for several reasons, including that the release of such information could be detrimental to the “investigation, or prosecution of crime.”
In total, attorneys cited eight sections of the government codes that would dismiss the public information requests, across 12 request sections.
“The city has made a good faith effort to relate each request to information that it holds,” the letter read.
The city of Uvalde, the Uvalde Police Department and the Uvalde school police department have been under increasing scrutiny since the tragedy took place on May 24, when an 18-year-old gunman entered Robb Elementary School and killed 19 fourth graders and two teachers. It took law enforcement 77 minutes to breach the classroom in which he was barricaded with individuals still alive.
Separate from criticism of what occurred that day, local and state leaders have been critiqued on their handling of information. Timelines were frequently switched, presented facts were often changed or conflicting from one day to the next, and much of the information was relayed in English while the city is predominantly Hispanic. This led to greater cries from the media and the public to release documents, such as 911 calls and videos, for increased transparency of what occurred that day.
While a Texas House investigative committee is currently looking into the matter, much of that process is occurring behind closed doors. Committee members, however, promise a release of information once complete. The Texas Rangers and the Justice Department are also conducting their own investigations, and a Texas Senate committee on the matter begins next week.
Attorneys working on behalf of the city said it has not voluntarily released any information to a member of the public and that any information provided to the Texas Rangers was in the form of an intergovernmental transfer of records for law enforcement purposes.
Many journalists covering the matter continue to call for the public release of all evidence that could provide an accurate account of the day, but state that a so-called "dead suspect loophole" is protecting law enforcement from releasing these files.
Texas state leaders including Speaker of the House Dade Phelan have also spoken for the release of information, stating that “more than anything, the families of the Uvalde victims need honest answers and transparency.”