Editor's note: The original version of this column misstated the type of rifle used in the mass shooting at the Uvalde school. It was an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.

The presumption a free press best serves the public when it holds government officials accountable is under fire in Uvalde, Texas, site of the killing of 19 school children and their two teachers.

KUVE-TV and the Austin American-Statesman newspaper face fierce criticism from local police, public officials and some residents for releasing a video account of the delayed police response to the deadly ordeal before the victims’ parents or the community could view it.

Without knowing the background of why the news outlets did so, that seems like reasonable judgment.

It is not.

Uvalde police and elected officials changed their stories and provided misleading and questionable information about what really occurred at Robb Elementary School from day the tragedy took place on May 24.

Then they shut up, stonewalling journalists’ requests, submitted under the Texas Freedom of Information Law, for surveillance videos, public records and facts linked to the who, why and how the mass shooting unfolded inside the school.

Family and friends of the victims as well as many residents wanted to know exactly what happened given the various versions on social media and the rumor mill.

The horrific happened. A gunman sprayed scores of bullets from his high-powered AR-15 semiautomatic rifle on students and teachers in two connected fourth-grade classrooms while law enforcement officers huddled in the hallway near the classrooms for more than an hour.

Screams and 911 cell phone calls from children inside the classrooms for police help did not yield the wanted response.

Officers outside the classrooms with rifles, handguns and armor stood down until Pete Arrendondo,  chief of the school district’s police force and one of the first on the scene at 11:33 a.m., gave approval to enter the classroom at 12:46 p.m.

KVUE-TV and The American-Statesman received leaked copies of the one hour and 22 minutes video that confirmed details of the law enforcement response. The newspaper published the entire video and an edited four-minute copy of the critical moments.

Manny Garcia, a columnist for the paper, explained both the long and short versions blurred the face of a student who first noticed the gunman after exiting the boys bathroom at the far end of the hallway. In the video, he runs back to the bathroom to hide.

Garcia said the paper deliberately left untouched the face of the gunman, who is seen in the hallway. “We chose, in this instance, to show his face to chisel away at any conspiracy that we are hiding something," he said.

Lack of trust in government officials figured into the decision to release the video to the public.

“Our goal is to continue to bring to light what happened at Robb Elementary, which the families and friends of the Uvalde victims have long been asking for,” said Garcia.

“This tragedy has been further tragic by changing stories, heroic-sounding narratives proven to be false and a delay or in most cases rejection of media requests for public information by law enforcement leaders, public officials and elected leaders.”

Good reason to release the video of the agonizingly slow law officers response to a horrible mass shooting, and thus fulfilling journalism’s  watchdog duty to hold government officials accountable.

Bill Ketter is the senior vice president for CNHI, LLC. Reach him at wketter@cnhi.com.

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