Uvalde Shooting Records May Not Be Made Public Over 'Dead Suspect Loophole'

Some politicians and transparency advocates in Texas are concerned that law enforcement officials will use a provision in state law dubbed 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 frequently used by the state's law enforcement officials to shield 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 inside a classroom by a Border Patrol tactical team. The shooting left 21 people dead, including 19 students and two teachers.

Kelley Shannon, the executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, told KXAN on Friday that the loophole has been routinely used to deny the release of records, and said she's concerned it could be used to block information related to the police's response to the shooting.

Uvalde Records May Not Be Made Public
Some politicians and transparency advocates in Texas are concerned that law enforcement officials will use a the so-called "dead suspect loophole" to block the release of records related to the Uvalde, Texas, mass shooting. Above, people visit a memorial at Robb Elementary School dedicated to the victims on Thursday. Alex Wong

"We've had all kinds of families come to the Capitol and explain how they could not get simple, basic police records," Shannon told the local news station. "Because their loved ones died in police custody."

The police response to the shooting has faced backlash and scrutiny from many, including Governor Greg Abbott.

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan issued a call to scrap the loophole on Twitter on Wednesday.

"More than anything, the families of the #Uvalde victims need honest answers and transparency. Period. It would be absolutely unconscionable to use the "dead suspect loophole" to thwart the release of information that is so badly needed and deserved right now," Phelan, a Republican, tweeted.

"The 'dead suspect loophole' allows law enforcement agencies to withhold details about cases that end w/o a conviction, including when a suspect dies in custody. The statute was originally intended to protect the wrongfully accused, but it hasn't really worked that way in practice," he added.

He also wrote that families of those who die in police custody "never get closure or access to details of their loved one's death because of this loophole," and that the Texas House previously passed legislation to do away with it.

"I think it's time we pass legislation to end the dead suspect loophole for good in 2023," Phelan said.

Representative Joe Moody, a Democrat who has sought to close the loophole for years, told CBS Austin on Thursday that he urges law enforcement to release records in the Uvalde case.

"We don't know what the local government is going to do there. They may disclose this, and I urge them to because we need to know the truth. The families deserve the truth. There's a lot of questions about what happened on the ground there, so it's important for us to get those answers," he said.

Newsweek has reached out to the Texas Department of Public Safety, which is investigating the shooting, for comment.