AUSTIN (THE TEXAS TRIBUNE) - Documents released Monday by the Texas Department of Public Safety's provided no new evidence that officers found one jar of urine and 18 containers of feces at the Capitol before a July 12 debate on a controversial abortion bill.
DPS released a press statement the day of the debate that said officers had discovered one jar suspected of containing urine and 18 jars suspected to contain feces. After initially resisting requests for additional information about the reported discoveries, DPS on Monday released 144 pages of documents about the alleged incident. But the documents contain no official reports of the findings, and several DPS officers said they had not seen any of the suspected items.
The documents included photos that show a bottle of acrylic paint and a small jar — reportedly collected at the Senate gallery entrance — that DPS Commander Jose Ortiz said he was "trying to getting clarification on." There was also a photo of three bricks collected in the Capitol extension.
In a text message exchange three days after the debate, one DPS employee asked others if they were aware of "urine or feces taken during our shakedowns." Three employees responded that they had not seen any discoveries of excrement.
DPS director Steve McCraw indicated he was frustrated about media reporting on the incident, and in a July 14 email he asked DPS officers to give the media photos of the suspected items.
"I'm tired of reading that we made this stuff up," Steven McCraw wrote in an email. "Let's get the photos we have to members and the media. Does anyone realistically believe we would fabricate evidence to support a political agenda. Amazing."
Ortiz told McCraw that troopers were not directed to take photos because DPS did not confiscate items. Instead, visitors were "directed to throw away prohibited items before entering the gallery."
"The volume of citizens waiting to get it in, was another factor for not taking photos," Ortiz wrote. "There may be other options, but this may require a day or two. I have asked our staff to review."
Documents previously released by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's office revealed Ortiz sent Dewhurst's chief of staff, Blaine Brunson, a text message saying bottles of feces and urine were found the day of the debate.
In a response to Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, who asked DPS officials for more information about the items confiscated, DPS wrote that no official department reports existed because "suspicious products or substances" were not confiscated and DPS officers were "busy assisting hundreds of citizens seeking entrance to the Senate gallery."
The documents also show that DPS was monitoring threats about other items that could be brought to the Capitol, including reports of glitter and paint days before the debate. The morning of the debate, one DPS analyst sent an email to other DPS employees about rumors that abortion rights activists would "be taking off their clothes, urinating, and defecating in the Senate gallery."
Media organizations requested more information from DPS in July following reports that protestors brought illicit items to the entrance of the Senate gallery. DPS had originally requested permission from the attorney general to keep the documents concealed, but later agreed to release the documents.