A month after 19 children and two educators were killed at Robb Elementary School, a picture is emerging of a disastrous police response, in which officers from several law enforcement agencies waited for an hour outside an unlocked classroom where children were trapped with the attacker. Journalists who have flocked to Uvalde, Tx., from across the country to tell that story have faced near-constant interference, intimidation and stonewalling from some of the same authorities — and not only bikers claiming to have police sanction, the Washington Post reports. Journalists have been barred from public meetings and refused basic information about what police did during the May 24 attack. After several early, error-filled news conferences, officials have routinely turned down interview requests and refused to hold news briefings. The situation has been made even more fraught by the spider’s web of local and state agencies involved in responding to and investigating the shooting, some of which now blame each other for the chaos.
“Our reporters have covered [the 2017 massacre in] Sutherland Springs, the Fort Hood shooting, and some are very experienced, having been embedded with military in Afghanistan, covered revolutions in Latin American, and none of them could remember an experience like this,” said Marc Duvoisin, editor in chief of the San Antonio Express-News. “The interference was so intense and without an identifiable public safety purpose.”
Duvoisin has complained to Uvalde city leaders and some police chiefs — one of whom apologized. Some of his journalists nevertheless asked not to be sent back to Uvalde, or confessed to feeling guilty for their work there. Police were documented repeatedly obstructing photographers in public areas, sometimes standing or parking vehicles directly in front of their cameras. Reporters and editors could not reach any authorities in Uvalde able to give basic information for several hours after school officials posted a notice on Facebook that Robb Elementary school had been locked down. There were no briefings by local police, no statements of facts about the events, and few, if any, returned calls. The first public address came not from local authorities, as is common after mass shootings, but from the Texas governor, several hours after the carnage ended.