Judge rules City of El Paso can release documents related Walmart mass shooting

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – A local magistrate judge ruled the City of El Paso does not have to withhold documents in relation to the mass shooting at the Walmart near Cielo Vista Mall.

The court denied a motion by the City related to public and media requests for several documents related to the Aug. 3 mass shooting.

The ruling could lead to the public release of several documents, including video and audio from the Aug. 3 mass shooting.

Judge Penny Hamilton denied the City’s motion for expedited “in camera inspection” of records on Thursday afternoon, according to documents obtained by KTSM 9 News.

The motion asked the court to have a hearing before Aug. 23 or “make a determination on the releaseability of the City records after conducting an in camera inspection of a representative sample of information that is responsive to open record requests.”

The City is facing a deadline to release the documents, as part of the Texas open records laws. The City received more than 40 requests from Aug. 5 to Aug. 14.

The order denying the City’s motion states a previously imposed seal prevents the release of motions and orders filed in the capital murder case against Patrick Crusius, 21, who is accused of killing 22 at the Walmart shooting and injuring 24 more.

“This Court’s sealed Ex Parte Motion and Order restricts the release of a single motion and order in the above-referenced criminal case and does not impact any other records in the possession of the El Paso County District Clerk’s office or any other Governmental Entity” the judge’s denial stated.

The motion was originally filed by the El Paso City Attorney’s Office. It shows the City is anticipating more requests in connection to the mass shooting.

The City said it must comply with open record laws, but learned the court had sealed documents through an El Paso Times article. The motion then asked the court for guidance on records and documents in its possession that could be released.

The motion stated the “City is in a predicament, because it does not know if the said sealed Ex Parte Motion and Order restricts the release of some or all of the City records associated with any information regarding the August 3, 2019, mass shooting incident or shooter involved, and whether the Motion and Order may in any way affect the City’s legal obligation under the Texas Public Information Act.”

The motion also states the City wanted to make sure it complied with the sealed records and also complied with the public’s right to know.

The denial of the motion was faxed to City Attorney Karla Nieman, defense attorney Mark Stevens (representing Crusius), defense attorney Joe Spencer and District Attorney Jaime Esparza.

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