UVALDE, Texas – The gunman who massacred 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Texas had warned on social media minutes before the attack that he had shot his grandmother and going to shoot up a school, the governor said Wednesday.
Salvador Ramos, 18, used an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle in the bloodbath Tuesday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. He had legally bought the two rifles just days before the attack, soon after his 18th birthday, authorities said.
About 30 minutes before the bloodbath, Ramos made three social media posts, Gov. Gregg Abbott said. According to the governor, Ramos posted that he was going to shoot his grandmother, then that he had shot his grandmother, and finally that he was going to shoot up an elementary school.
“All Texans have been shaken to their core in the wake of the horrific tragedy that occurred yesterday in the close-knit community of Uvalde,” said Abbott. “We must come together in support of the families of the innocent victims, the law enforcement officers who heroically responded, and the entire Uvalde community, which will be impacted by this senseless act of violence for generations to come. As the investigation by state and local authorities continues, it is our duty as elected officials to evaluate all possible means of making our schools safer to prevent future tragedies and ensure communities across the state—whether they are underserved populations within large cities or rural areas of the state—have the mental health resources needed. The State of Texas continues working to better protect and serve all Texans, young and old.”
Abbott said Ramos, a resident of the community Uvalde, which is85 miles west of San Antonio, had no known criminal or mental health history.
Seventeen people were also injured in the attack, but none of the injuries was life-threatening, Abbott said.
“Evil swept across Uvalde yesterday. Anyone who shoots his grandmother in the face has to have evil in his heart,” Abbott said at a news conference. “But it is far more evil for someone to gun down little kids. It is intolerable and it is unacceptable for us to have in the state anybody who would kill little kids in our schools.”
Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who is running against Abbott for governor this year, interrupted the news conference, calling the Republican’s response to the tragedy “predictable.” O’Rourke was escorted out while members of the crowd yelled at him, with one man calling him a “sick son of a bitch.”
As details of the latest mass killing to rock the U.S. emerged, grief engulfed the small town of Uvalde, a population of 16,000.
The dead included an outgoing 10-year-old, Eliahna Garcia, who loved to sing, dance and play basketball; a fellow fourth-grader, Xavier Javier Lopez, who had been eagerly awaiting a summer of swimming; and a teacher, Eva Mireles, with 17 years of experience whose husband is an officer with the school district’s police department.
“I just don’t know how people can sell that type of a gun to a kid 18 years old,” Eliahna’s aunt, Siria Arizmendi, said angrily through tears. “What is he going to use it for but for that purpose?”
Lt. Christopher Olivarez of the Texas Department of Public Safety said that all of those killed were in the same fourth-grade classroom.
The killer “barricaded himself by locking the door and just started shooting children and teachers that were inside that classroom,” Olivarez said. “It just shows you the complete evil of the shooter.”
Law enforcement officers eventually broke into the classroom and killed the gunman. Police and others responding to the attack also went around breaking windows at the school to enable students and teachers to escape.
Investigators did not immediately disclose a motive. But in chilling posts on social media in the days and hours before the massacre, an account that appeared to belong to Ramos displayed photos of his guns and seemed to indicate something was going to happen.
The attack in the predominantly Latino town of Uvalde was the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012.
The bloodshed was the latest in a seemingly unending string of mass killings at churches, schools, stores and other sites in the United States. Just 10 days earlier, 10 Black people were shot to death in a racist rampage at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket.
In a somber address to the nation hours after the attack in Texas, President Joe Biden pleaded for Americans to “stand up to the gun lobby” and enact tougher restrictions, saying: “When in God’s name are we going to do what has to be done?”
But the prospects for any reform of the nation’s gun regulations appeared dim. Repeated attempts over the years to expand background checks and enact other curbs have run into Republican opposition in Congress.
On the day Ramos bought his second weapon last week, an Instagram account that investigators say apparently belong to Ramos carried a photo of two AR-style rifles. Ramos apparently tagged another Instagram user, one with more than 10,000 followers, asking her to share the picture with her followers.
“I barely know you and u tag me in a picture with some guns,” replied the Instagram user, who has since removed her profile. “It’s just scary.”
On the morning of the attack, the account linked to the gunman replied: “I’m about to.”
Instagram confirmed that it is working with law enforcement to review the account but declined to answer questions about the postings. Investigators are also looking at an account on TikTok, possibly belonging to the shooter, with a profile that reads: “Kids be scared IRL,” an acronym meaning “in real life.” The profile is not dated.
Officers found one of the rifles in Ramos’ truck, the other in the school, according to the briefing given to lawmakers. Ramos was wearing a tactical vest, but it had no hardened body-armor plates inside, lawmakers were told. He also dropped a backpack containing several magazines full of ammunition near the school entrance.
One of the guns was purchased at a federally licensed dealer in the Uvalde area on May 17, according to state Sen. John Whitmire, who was briefed by investigators. Ramos bought 375 rounds of ammunition the next day, then purchased the second rifle last Friday.
On Tuesday morning, Ramos shot and wounded his grandmother, then fled the scene, crashing his truck near the school and entering the building, authorities said.
Dillon Silva, whose nephew was in a nearby classroom, said students were watching the Disney movie “Moana” when they heard several loud pops and a bullet shattered a window. Moments later, their teacher saw the attacker stride past the door.
“Oh, my God, he has a gun!” the teacher shouted twice, according to Silva. “The teacher didn’t even have time to lock the door,” he said.
A tactical team forced its way into the classroom where the attacker was holed up and was met with gunfire from Ramos but shot and killed him, according to Olivarez.
In the aftermath, families in Uvalde waited hours for word on their children. At the town civic center where some gathered Tuesday night, the silence was broken repeatedly by screams and wails. “No! Please, no!” one man yelled as he embraced another man. On Wednesday morning, volunteers were seen arriving with Bibles and therapy dogs.
Staff members in scrubs and devastated victims’ relatives could be seen weeping as they left Uvalde Memorial Hospital, where many of the children were taken. Three children and an adult were being treated at a San Antonio hospital, where two of them — a 66-year-old woman and a 10-year-old girl — were listed in serious condition.
Law enforcement officers investigating the bloodshed began serving search warrants and gathering telephone and other records. They also sought to contact Ramos’ relatives and trace the guns.
Robb Elementary, which has nearly 600 students in second, third and fourth grades, is a single-story brick structure in a mostly residential neighborhood of modest homes.
The close-knit community, built around a shaded central square, includes many Hispanic families who have lived there for generations. It sits amid fields of cabbage, onions, carrots and other vegetables. But many of the steadiest jobs are supplied by companies that produce construction materials.
The attack came as the school was counting down to the last days of the school year with a series of themed days. Tuesday was to be “Footloose and Fancy,” with students wearing nice outfits.
Condolences poured in from leaders around the world. Pope Francis said it is time to say “‘enough’ to the indiscriminate trade of weapons!” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said his nation also knows “the pain of losing innocent young lives.”
Texas, which has some of the most gun-friendly laws in the nation, has been the site of some of the deadliest shootings in the U.S. over the past five years.
In 2018, a gunman killed 10 people at Santa Fe High School in the Houston area. A year before that, a gunman shot more than two dozen people to death during a Sunday service in the small town of Sutherland Springs. In 2019, a gunman at a Walmart in El Paso killed 23 people in a racist attack targeting Hispanics.
The shooting came days before the National Rifle Association annual convention was set to begin in Houston. Gov. Greg. Abbott and both of Texas’ U.S. senators, all of them Republicans, were among the scheduled speakers at a forum Friday
The South Texas Blood and Tissue Center is asking for blood donations. They have already sent over 15 units of blood and are running out. There is currently a blood shortage.
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‘Hard to process the tragedy’: Houston-area school districts offer condolences, react to mass shooting at Uvalde elementary school
Gov. Abbott issued the following statement:
“Texans across the state are grieving for the victims of this senseless crime and for the community of Uvalde. Cecilia and I mourn this horrific loss and we urge all Texans to come together to show our unwavering support to all who are suffering. We thank the courageous first responders who worked to finally secure Robb Elementary School. I have instructed the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Rangers to work with local law enforcement to fully investigate this crime. The Texas Division of Emergency Management is charged with providing local officials all resources necessary to respond to this tragedy as the State of Texas works to ensure the community has what it needs to heal.”
Uvalde CISD issued the following statement:
“Our community has experienced a terrible tragedy. We must come together to console one another and respect the privacy of the families. Please keep all families in your prayers.
School has been canceled for the rest of the school year for our students. This includes all extra-curricular activities for Wednesday and Thursday. The Graduation Ceremony will be addressed at a later time.
Uvalde CISD Staff are to report to their campuses tomorrow. School counselors will be available at all campuses to provide counseling support. Surrounding community counselors will be available at the Civic Center tomorrow to assist the Robb students, parents and faculty with counseling support. This is a tragic time in our district, we will come together to begin the healing process.
This is a difficult time for everyone, however the gentle support all school community members give to each other during this time is the first step in healing. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact your campus principal or your child’s school counselor.”
Former President Barack Obama released the following statement:
“Across the country, parents are putting their children to bed, reading stories, singing lullabies—and in the back of their minds, they’re worried about what might happen tomorrow after they drop their kids off at school, or take them to a grocery store or any other public space.
Michelle and I grieve with the families in Uvalde, who are experiencing pain no one should have to bear. We’re also angry for them. Nearly ten years after Sandy Hook—and ten days after Buffalo—our country is paralyzed, not by fear, but by a gun lobby and a political party that have shown no willingness to act in any way that might help prevent these tragedies.
It’s long past time for action, any kind of action. And it’s another tragedy—a quieter but no less tragic one—for families to wait another day. May God bless the memory of the victims, and in the words of Scripture, heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.”
Justice Department, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland issued the following statement:
“Today, another mass shooting has taken the lives of innocent victims, including elementary school children and their teacher. This act of unspeakable violence has devastated an entire community and shaken our country.
“FBI and ATF agents have responded to the scene, and the Justice Department is committed to providing our full support to our law enforcement partners on the ground in Texas and to the Uvalde community.
“We join our fellow Americans in mourning this terrible loss and in their resolve to end this senseless violence.”
Houston Independent School District Superintendent Millard House II issued the following statement:
Our hearts ache as we share in the grief and pain of the Uvalde community. Robb Elementary children, teachers, staff, and families experienced what no one should, let alone at a place we trust is safe for our children.
The safety of our students is our foremost priority. The Houston ISD Police Department is evaluating safety measures on our campuses and will adjust accordingly. I want to assure the HISD community that we are taking this very seriously. HISD Police have reached out to the Houston Police Department and there are no active threats currently.
I will hold my children a little tighter when I see them as I’m sure many of you will as well. Let us hold the families of those who have lost loved ones just as tightly in our thoughts and send them the strength to get through this unimaginable pain.
President Joe Biden, who was briefed about the tragedy aboard Air Force One while traveling, announced that the U.S. flag will be flown at half-staff in honor of the victims, and also issued a proclamation in dedication.
The proclamation reads:
“As a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated on May 24, 2022, by a gunman at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, May 28, 2022. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fourth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-sixth.
JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.