District Attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee of Uvalde, Texas, on Thursday testified that releasing videos and other materials from the May 24 shooting that left 19 Robb Elementary School students and two teachers dead would "re-traumatize" victims and compromise investigations into the tragedy.
Busbee's testimony came as part of Texas state Sen. Roland Gutierrez's lawsuit against the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), which accuses the department of unlawfully denying his and other entities' public information requests for materials, such video footage, from the shooting.
"There is no cover-up," Busbee testified in her first public appearance since DPS opened an internal investigation into the mass shooting in mid-July.
Gutierrez's lawsuit contains a section titled, "The Cover-Up," which states in part that Busbee should hand over requested materials as "she is not engaging in an active investigation," as KSAT reported in July.
Busbee has said that while she does not personally conduct investigations, her office reviews them, and the current DPS probe into the Uvalde shooting has broadened at her "directive" since it began.
"If there was a cover-up, I wouldn't have broadened the scope of this investigation from the beginning," she said.
In addition to re-traumatizing victims, Busbee said, releasing the materials that Gutierrez, news outlets and others have requested from the shooting might incentivize potential witnesses to "lawyer up" and "change their story," as she has seen in previous investigations.
"If there’s information placed out in the public, then people would be apt to come to a conclusion without hearing the full story, the full investigation there," she said. "There is no way that I would be able to see that justice was done."
It could take years for the materials requested to be released amid the DPS investigation, according to the DA.
"I would ask for time to do my job. Time and patience," she said when asked what she would tell her constituents who are frustrated by confusion surrounding the events of the shooting and the decision not to release video footage, 911 calls, communications between state and federal officials, and other materials.
Both the district attorney and DPS Director Steve McCraw stated that they have not reviewed all video footage from the shooting. There is footage from 34 officer body-worn cameras, McCraw testified.
Uvalde officials have come under fire for the more than 70-minute delay in confronting the shooter. McCraw has blamed Uvalde school district Police Chief Pete Arredondo who was the on-scene commander during the shooting. Arredondo was placed on unpaid administrative leave in June. Only one other law enforcement officer, acting Uvalde police chief Lt. Mariano Pargas, has been placed on administrative leave in the wake of the shooting.
Robb Elementary School Principal Mandy Gutierrez was suspended in the wake of the House committee report, but she was reinstated just days later after responding to the school district's questions about her actions.