The mothers texted and called. They wanted to see the body camera footage of their children being brought out, bloodied, and traumatized, after being left with a murderous gunman for 77 minutes in the classrooms of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Their children had survived a massacre of 19 of their fourth-grade classmates and two instructors over a year before. But they still had a lot of questions, and no one in authority appeared to be willing to answer them.
“We have to see it. We really do,” Kassandra Chavez told CNN. She was aware that the film existed and that the CNN team investigating the bungled law enforcement response to the school massacre was likely in possession of it as part of the investigative materials we secured and utilized in many exclusive pieces on what transpired on May 24 at the school.
CNN’s responsibility is not to provide content directly to families, especially these violent and horrible images of a happy elementary school corridor stained red with children’s blood. The release of body cameras and surveillance video, as well as exact timelines of who did what and when, is normally the obligation of the law enforcement agency involved, even if it shows officers in error. This has recently occurred in Memphis, Nashville, and St. Louis.
“We’ve only been called once or twice to the DA’s office at the beginning and now we haven’t been told nothing,” Chavez said. “I mean, we’re having to find out later or through social media that something is going on.”
Knowing that the families, as well as other media organizations, were being denied access to information that should have been made public, CNN made the extraordinary decision to allow the families to watch.
We had already shared with their parents the heartbreaking and infuriating 911 calls made by two survivors, Khloie Torres and Miah Cerrillo, before reporting how those calls proved that law enforcement knew there were children trapped with the gunman who needed rescuing 40 minutes before officers entered the classroom. Those parents claimed the calls helped them understand what their children were going through, and they wanted them made public. But they still wanted to watch the videos.