Parents of Uvalde school shooting victims and local Texas officials, including the Uvalde mayor, are furious that surveillance video showing police inaction during the tragedy leaked to a Texas paper.
The video, which was obtained by the Austin American-Statesman and released Tuesday, shows several cops milling around for over an hour and checking their phones as the children were mercilessly shot in a nearby room. One officer even took the time to sanitize his hands.
Following the release of the video, a city council meeting became heated—Mayor Don McLaughlin called the media “chicken” and a city council member went even further with “chickenshit,” largely because parents were not given the option to see the video first. The mayor said he had yet to see the video but nevertheless implied it shows the cops’ bravery because one officer went down the hallway three times.
“Rather than attacking the media, y'all should attack those cops,” said one person at the meeting. “You should attack the cops who did nothing,” said another.
Some of the parents, who were in Washington to discuss the mass shooting with lawmakers, held an emotional press conference where they discussed their thoughts on the video being released. Many argued that they should have seen it first. Angel Garza, who lost his daughter Amerie, described being “blindsided” by the leak.
“Who the hell do these people think they are?” he asked. “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 air their final moments for the entire world? What makes you think this is OK?”
Twenty-one people, including 19 students, were killed in the shooting on May 24 after an 18-year-old gunman entered Robb Elementary School and opened-fire. The 77-minute-long video was captured by security cameras outside and inside the school, including the hallway where police amassed and waited. The city had fought to have records related to the shooting remain private and even hired a private law firm, as Motherboard previously reported.
“We’re suffering and I know the world is suffering too, but these were our babies, our babies that were taken from us,” Felicia Martinez, whose daughter Alicia was killed in the shooting, said at the press conference in D.C. “So to the person that leaked it, screw you. Screw you and that’s coming from me. From all of us, screw you.”
State Sen. Roland Gutierrez was traveling with the families and said he tried to block the release of the video but couldn’t. He said he’s disappointed in whoever decided to leak it.
The video shows how little the police did in key moments during the shooting and was met with widespread scorn from the general public as well as criticism from law enforcement experts. Texas Department of Public Safety director Col. Steven McCraw described the video as “horrifying evidence that the law enforcement response to the attack at Robb Elementary on May 24 was an abject failure.”
Some of the family members, however, said they understood the media's decision to release the video because the government hasn’t been transparent. At the press conference in D.C., Nikki Cross, who lost a nephew in the shooting, said that the parents were asking the district attorney for the video but were denied access to it.
“So once again, the world got to see it before us, just the day of the shooting,” Cross sad. “Just like the day of the shooting when Gov. Abbott announced to you all that our children were dead and we had no idea. So it’s like reliving that day all over again, and I’m sick of it.”
Follow Mack Lamoureux on Twitter.
Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.