The response from the families of the Uvalde massacre victims was of anger and outrage, the reaction from law enforcement experts was that of astonishment and dismay.
It followed the release Tuesday by a Texas newspaper of leaked surveillance video from inside the school, days ahead of when officials said they planned to allow families to view it, and before it would be released to the public.
“It’s just never-ending pain, it’s just one thing after another,” said Kimberly Rubio, whose 10-year-old daughter, Lexi, was killed. Rubio, along with other parents, was in Washington, DC, on Tuesday to meet with legislators.”We came here to share Lexi’s story, to try to change things and then we get this kind of news and we have to tell our family back home not to watch the news, and our kids (who) have cellphones.”
Nineteen students and two teachers were killed by the gunman who walked into Robb Elementary on May 24.
The Austin American-Statesman newspaper, which published the leaked footage, defended its decision, with executive editor Manny Garcia writing in an editorial, “We have to bear witness to history, and transparency and unrelenting reporting is a way to bring change.”
One edited video shows the gunman entering the school and walking down the hallway with a long rifle. The recording also shows officers approaching the classroom that the shooter was in, but then retreating down the hallway and taking cover when gunfire is heard. It was more than an hour later before authorities confronted and killed the shooter.
“This should have been over in 3 to 4 minutes,” Carrie Cordero, CNN legal analyst and former counsel to the US assistant attorney general, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Tuesday, saying there was “no excuse” for why the officers held back for so long.
“We don’t know what was going on in the minds of those officers who were in the hallway and decided not to act when there were children under gunfire – but from my perspective, every single one depicted in that video should turn in their badge,” Cordero added.
Families of victims were outraged
The families who were in Washington expressed outrage at the release of the footage before those impacted had a chance to view it first.
“We get blindsided by a leak,” said Angel Garza, whose 10-year-old daughter, Amerie Jo, was killed. “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 go ahead and air their final moments to the entire world? What makes you think that’s OK?
“The least you can do is have some freaking decency for us,” Garza said.
Javier Cazares, the father of Jacklyn Jaylen Cazares, who was also killed, said he was preparing to view the footage Sunday –as authorities had planned – when he abruptly found out about Tuesday’s release.
“It got shown all over the world and we are pissed,” Cazares said. “These families didn’t deserve it. I don’t deserve it. That’s a slap to our babies’ faces and we’re tired of this. We can’t trust anybody no more. It’s aggravating.”
Rubio said during the press conference that while she was understanding of the media holding people accountable “because the government hasn’t been transparent,” she said she didn’t want to hear the audio – particularly gunfire – from that day.
Gunfire is heard in the edited portions of the video that was released by the newspaper. The paper said it removed the sound of children’s screams from the video.
Other parents took to social media to express their anger and urged others not to share the footage online. In a statement, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said he was “angry” that the request of victims’ families and the Uvalde community to watch the video before it went public was not fulfilled.
“It is unbelievable that this video was posted as part of a news story with images and audio of the violence of this incident without consideration for the families involved,” the mayor said. “I continue to stand behind my statements that full transparency and consideration for the families remains the priority as it relates to this incident.”
Law enforcement experts were stunned
Texas Department of Public Safety director Col. Steven McCraw, who has sharply criticized the law enforcement response in the attack, said in a statement Tuesday he was “deeply disappointed” that the video was published before all impacted families and the Uvalde community could view it as part of the planned release.
“Those most affected should have been among the first to see it,” McCraw said. “This video provides horrifying evidence that the law enforcement response to the attack at Robb Elementary on May 24 was an abject failure.”
Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe described the law enforcement response as “a total mess” from the crisis-response perspective.
“The Texas state active shooter response for school-based officers’ training, that every one of these officers has to have had by this point in time, makes it clear that you take everybody that you have when you arrive on that scene and you go downrange to address the threat. That is not what they did,” McCabe said on CNN.
“And then the mistakes compound from there, you see one after another, as we watch the video,” he added.
Charles Ramsey, the former Philadelphia police commissioner, said that during his tenure as a commissioner, several police officers died in the line of duty, adding, “I know what heroism looks like, and that ain’t it.”
He said he was “embarrassed as a police officer” watching the footage, saying that law enforcement should have regrouped and confronted the gunman sooner after the first officers came under gunfire.
“You have to do what you have to do, period. That’s the job,” he added. “This is not pro-bono work, you get paid to do this and you volunteered to do it. You didn’t get drafted to become a cop. It’s part of what you do.”
CNN’s Andy Rose and Mary Kay Mallonee contributed to this report.