Some politicians and transparency advocates in Texas fear law enforcement officials will use a provision in state law called the “Dead Suspect Loophole” to block the release of records related to last week’s mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.
According to Texas Public Radio, the loophole is often used by the state’s law enforcement officials to protect information from the public about a case in which a suspect dies in custody. The suspect in the Uvalde mass shooting, Salvador Ramos, died when he was shot by a Border Patrol tactical team in a classroom. The shooting killed 21 people, including 19 students and two teachers.
Kelley Shannon, the executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, told KXAN Friday that the loophole has been routinely used to refuse to release records, and said she’s concerned it could be used to leak related information with the police response to block the shooting.
“We’ve had all kinds of families come to the Capitol and explain how they couldn’t get simple, basic police records,” Shannon told local news station. “Because their relatives died in police custody.”
The police response to the shooting drew criticism and criticism from many, including Governor Greg Abbott.
Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan called on Twitter on Wednesday for the gap to be closed.
“Especially the families of #uvalde Victims need honest answers and transparency. Period. It would be utterly ruthless to use the “dead suspect loophole” to thwart the release of information that is so desperately needed and deserved right now,” tweeted Phelan, a Republican.
“The ‘dead suspect loophole’ allows law enforcement to withhold details of cases that end without a conviction, including when a suspect dies in custody. The law was originally intended to protect those wrongly accused, but that hasn’t really worked as it has in practice,” he added.
He also wrote that families of those who die in police custody are “never closed or given access to details of their loved one’s death because of this loophole,” and that the Texas House has previously passed legislation to eliminate this.
“I think it’s time we passed legislation to finally end the dead suspect loophole in 2023,” Phelan said.
Rep. Joe Moody, a Democrat who has been trying to bridge the gap for years, told CBS Austin on Thursday that he is urging law enforcement to release recordings in the Uvalde case.
“We don’t know what the local government will do there. You can disclose this and I challenge you because we need to know the truth. The families deserve the truth. There are many questions about what happened on the ground there, so it’s important for us to get those answers,” he said.
news week has reached out to the Texas Department of Public Safety, which is investigating the shooting, for comment.
https://www.newsweek.com/uvalde-shooting-records-may-not-made-public-over-dead-suspect-loophole-1712722 Uvalde shooting records may not be published due to “Dead Suspect Loophole”.