Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughin slammed local media for releasing surveillance footage of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in May, calling the decision to publicize the video before parents could see it “one of the most chicken things I’ve ever seen.”
McLaughin made the comments during a town council meeting Tuesday night, criticizing both the Austin-American Statesman and a partnering ABC affiliate news station for releasing the footage on Tuesday ahead of the city’s planned release on Sunday.
“There’s no reason for the families to have to see that,” the mayor said. “They were going to see the video, but they didn’t need to see the gunman coming in and hear the gunshots. They don’t need to relive that — they’ve been through enough. That was the most chicken way to put the video out.”
After an Uvalde resident said he had to call up other families to tell them not to watch the video, Uvalde councilmember Ernest King said the publications’ decision to release the footage was “chicken s—.”
“That part of that video was not supposed to be in what they’re doing on Sunday,” King said. “They did that for ratings and they did that for money.”
The roughly four-minute camera footage from inside the elementary school shows a clear image of the gunman enter the hallway with his rifle before he enters a classroom and opens fire. The gunman killed 19 children and two teachers, spending more than an hour inside the school before police shot and killed him.
The law enforcement response to the massacre has been heavily criticized and the commanding officer on scene, Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo, was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.
The surveillance footage shows at least 13 police officers, some with body armor and riot gear, gathered in the hallway outside the classroom where the gunman remained.
Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw, who has called the police response to the bloodbath an “abject failure,” said he was “deeply disappointed” in the media’s decision to release the video.
“This video was released before all of the families who were impacted that day and the community of Uvalde had the opportunity to view it,” McCraw said in a statement released on Twitter.
Rep. Dustin Burrows (R), the chairman of a Texas legislative committee investigating the shooting, had planned to release the video on Sunday after parents had the chance to review it.
On Tuesday night, Burrows tweeted he was “disappointed the victim’s families and the Uvalde community’s requests to watch the video first, and not have certain images and audio of the violence, were not achieved.”
The Austin-American Statesman obtained more than an hour of footage before they condensed it down to a four-minute clip containing the most salient parts of the tragedy.
Accompanying the video is also a narrative, including descriptions of the gunman flicking his hair back as he marches through the school hallway with his rifle.
Manny Garcia, the editor of the Austin American-Statesman, wrote in an opinion piece that he chose to publish the video and a narrative to “bring to light what happened at Robb Elementary.”
“We have to bear witness to history, and transparency and unrelenting reporting is a way to bring change,” Garcia wrote, adding a note at the end to subscribe to the newspaper.