What is the ‘Dead Suspect Loophole’ and how will it affect what we know about Uvalde?
Since an 18-year-old gunman barricaded himself in a classroom at a primary school in Uvalde and shot and killed 19 students and two teachers, the police account of the events leading up to and during the massacre changed from day to day.
As more shocking details are revealed about police action and inaction during the murder, the community of Uvalde desperately needs answers.
Journalists and lawmakers have called for the release of 911 calls, body camera footage and other evidence to determine what happened on May 24, but Texas open-recording laws may prevent the public to see important evidence.
Here’s how the so-called “dead suspect loophole” could affect what we know about Uvalde:
What is the dead suspect’s escape route?
Under Texas Public Information Law, government agencies are required to make available to the public records “about the business of government and the official acts of officials and employees.”
There are, however, several exceptions to what is considered public information, including what has been called the dead suspect loophole.
Under state law, law enforcement records dealing with an investigation that did not result in a conviction should not be made public. This includes the death of a person while interacting with law enforcement.
How could the loophole apply to Uvalde?
Salvador Ramos spent over an hour inside Robb Elementary School before being killed by law enforcement.
Initially, officials said Ramos was confronted by a school security guard, which turned out to be untrue. It was later revealed that officers waited inside the school while children and teachers called 911 and asked for help.
Reports that Ramos entered the building through an open door were later proven to be baseless. On Friday, authorities said school district police chief Pete Arredondo — who led the response that day — did not have his radio with him.
While 911 tapes, communications between law enforcement, and other evidence would likely be crucial to piecing together an accurate picture of what happened that day, it’s possible that those tapes may not be made public because Ramos was killed by the police.
The decision whether or not to publish the archives of the massacre will rest with law enforcement.
Lawmakers call for action
State officials have attempted to close the dead suspect loophole in previous legislative sessions.
State Rep. Dade Phelan, a Republican representing District 21 in Southeast Texas, is among lawmakers in recent days who have called on the Texas Legislature to close the loophole.
More than anything, the families of #Uvalde victims need honest answers and transparency. Period. It would be absolutely inadmissible to use the “dead suspect loophole” to thwart the disclosure of information so needed and so deserved at this time. #txlege🧵 https://t.co/OjtgRXYZ2H
— Dade Phelan (@DadePhelan) June 2, 2022
In a series of tweets, Phelan said it would be “absolutely impermissible” to allow the loophole to affect the victims’ families’ knowledge of what happened during the shooting.
“Families of those who die in custody never get closure or access to the details of their loved one’s death because of this loophole. This is an area in dire need of reform,” he said. -he writes.
Phelan, who is the president of the Texas House, announced on Friday that the House would investigate the events at the elementary school. He said a committee will review law enforcement’s evidence and release the findings “as soon as possible to help inform the work of the House.”