Uvalde law enforcement officers to testify before grand jury

The grand jury was empaneled in January of last year as part of a 21-month long investigation.

By Sarah AschFebruary 23, 2024 1:39 pm,

Multiple law enforcement officers who responded to the 2022 Uvalde school shooting have been ordered to appear before a grand jury investigating the botched police response.

Subsequent investigations into the shooting, which killed 19 children and two teachers, have found law enforcement did not follow proper protocol for an active shooter situation. 

In-person testimony is set to begin at the Uvalde County Courthouse next week — and this marks a new phase in the 21-month investigation that could result in criminal charges against officers.

Tony Plohetski, who broke this story for the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV, said that given the private nature of subpoenas, it is hard to say exactly how many or which officers will testify. 

“What we have been able to confirm through sources is that multiple law enforcement officers from multiple agencies, including the Uvalde Police Department and, importantly, the Texas Department of Public Safety, have received subpoenas,” he said. “These are court orders requiring them to go to Uvalde, to the courthouse, and appear before a convened Uvalde County grand jury.

“That grand jury was seated in January by a judge. But the fact that now the subpoenas, the summons have been issued for law enforcement officers requiring and compelling their testimony underscores the significance of this grand jury investigation and an accelerated rate that it is traveling at this point.”

This could also lead to criminal charges against law enforcement officers based on their response to the shooting.

“It is our understanding that the work of the grand jury is to evaluate whether or not to charge any law enforcement officer with possible felony offenses,” Plohetski said. “One of the possible felonies that legal experts have said that the grand jury is likely to consider is a charge called child endangerment. It is unclear at this point whether or not anyone, though, will ultimately be indicted — or whether or not multiple officers will be indicted.”

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Many law enforcement officers gave written and oral statements in the aftermath of the shooting, but this new step gives the grand jury the chance to evaluate officers in person, Plohetski said.

“This affords the grand jury the opportunity to ask questions to the police officers themselves,” he said. “In addition to evaluating their answers, they can also evaluate the demeanor of the witnesses and of the potential targets even of the investigation, to try to determine their credibility and whether or not they ultimately should be charged with a crime.”

Grand jury proceedings are not public, and there has been some disagreement between Uvalde County District Attorney Christina Mitchell and media outlets about how much evidence around the investigation can be released. 

“The district attorney in Uvalde County has steadfastly said that this grand jury proceeding is the very reason that she has not wanted information and evidence collected as part of the investigation to be released to the public,” Plohetski said. “However, attorneys for media outlets and open records experts have really taken issue with that as a reason to not disclose information, saying that so much of what happened that day is known, and so because of that, the information should be released.

“Keep in mind that this investigation that is ongoing is not expected to be something that happens quickly. It is a process that could take weeks or even months.”

The timeline will depend for the most part on the grand jurors themselves. 

“The very nature of grand jurors is that it can be difficult for presenting prosecutors to know exactly how long a grand jury may take to act,” Plohetski said. “I think a lot of that will depend on the grand jury themselves, how much time they want to spend on each witness, how much time they want to spend poring over all of the evidence in the case. That’s just something that can somewhat be unpredictable for prosecutors as they go forward with the presentation.”

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