City of Uvalde files lawsuit in attempt to force DA to turn over investigative materials from shooting

It follows a $27 billion lawsuit from survivors against local, state officials.

December 1, 2022, 9:45 PM

The City of Uvalde added to a flurry of lawsuits filed this week surrounding the Robb Elementary School shooting. The city submitted a petition Thursday against Uvalde County District Attorney Christina Mitchell, attempting to force her to turn over her investigative materials related to the Robb Elementary School shooting.

This is the third suit filed in relation to the massacre this week alone, and the city is a defendant in the other two.

The petition, submitted in Uvalde district court, argues that the city needs access to Mitchell's investigative materials, such as body camera footage and incident reports from the day of the shooting. The city has contracted its own investigator, Jesse Prado, to complete an internal affairs review of the Uvalde police department. His ability to do so has been hindered by a lack of evidence, according to the petition.

PHOTO: The Torres family stand holding signs of Eliahna Torres, one of the children murdered during the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, during a March For Our Lives rally, Aug. 27, 2022, in Austin, Texas.
The Torres family stand holding signs of Eliahna Torres, one of the children murdered during the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, during a March For Our Lives rally, Aug. 27, 2022, in Austin, Texas.
Brandon Bell/Getty Images

"We hope this lawsuit will allow the City's investigation into the conduct of its officers to be completed so as to give the community and families the answers they deserve," said a city spokesperson in a news release.

The city announced its own investigation into its police department's conduct this past summer amidst outcry for police accountability following a delayed 77-minute police response that has been widely criticized.

The petition by the city says that Mitchell has not shared vital evidence from that day, while providing it to other agencies. The suit asks the court to immediately force her to turn those materials over for Prado's eyes only instead of withholding them until after she completes her investigation.

According to the Uvalde Leader News, Mitchell's investigation will last into Spring 2023. Mitchell did not respond to an email asking about the city's complaint.

"The Uvalde community has waited entirely too long for answers and transparency with regard to the Robb Elementary shooting incident," read the city's statement.

Earlier this week, the city was named as a defendant in two other lawsuits. A class action filed this week is seeking $27 billion dollars for more than 25 shooting survivors.

The survivors are suing Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw, along with the city, for psychological damages incurred during the massacre.

The other defendants in the $27 billion lawsuit include local lawmakers and top law enforcement officers, many of whom are already facing federal suits from other survivors of the shooting and one victim's mother. This is the first suit to name McCraw and Texas DPS Regional Director Victor Escalon for their role in the police response during the massacre that took 21 lives.

"People are hurting, their children are hurting," said Charles Bonner, the lead attorney on the case in a news conference Wednesday. "They don't know what to do and there's no one helping them."

The federal lawsuit, which was filed in Del Rio, Texas, is the first class action to arise in the aftermath of the massacre and the first to ask for a specific amount in damages. It is the third federal lawsuit that has spawned from the tragedy and the second filed by a group of survivors. The plaintiffs were students, teachers, and school bus drivers at Robb Elementary on the day of the shooting. Lawyers say they are looking to add more plaintiffs to the complaint as well.

"This $27 Billion lawsuit is to let them know that we value our children's lives," said Bonner. "We have to have enough money to get their attention."

Families of the victims confronted McCraw at an October public safety hearing in Austin, calling on him to resign.

"If you're a man of your word, you'll resign," said Brett Cross, father of 10-year-old Robb Elementary School victim Uziyah Garcia.

McCraw said that DPS as an institution had not failed during the shooting. DPS did not respond to requests for comment on this lawsuit.

PHOTO: A general view of the memorial outside Robb Elementary, where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers in the U.S. school shooting, in Uvalde, Texas, Nov. 27, 2022.
A general view of the memorial outside Robb Elementary, where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers in the U.S. school shooting, in Uvalde, Texas, Nov. 27, 2022.
Marco Bello/Reuters

Bonner said that he met with many of the surviving families earlier this week at a church in Uvalde and heard their stories.

Many kids who witnessed the shooting unfold are still dealing with the psychological consequences, he said. Some have had trouble sleeping, others started wetting their pants and many can't be alone anymore.

Teachers who sheltered students in classrooms and closets have been traumatized too, he added.

"Their brains are now permanently injured," said Bonner. "The brain is a physical organ just like the leg or the knee and it's now permanently injured."

The mother of a girl killed during the massacre also filed a lawsuit Monday against gun distributors, local governments and 16 law enforcement officers on the scene during the shooting -- claiming their negligence led to her daughter's death.

"Eliahna loved her family, and she knew how much we loved her," Sandra Torres, the mother of 10-year-old Eliahna Torres, said in a news release.

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