Officials say the shooter, who was armed with a handgun and an assault rifle, barricaded himself in a fourth-grade classroom where he killed at least 21 people.
UVALDE, Texas – Nineteen students and two teachers were killed by an 18-year-old gunman at an elementary school in Texas on Tuesday.
Before heading to Robb Elementary School, officials say Salvador Ramos, who was a student at Uvalde High School, shot his grandmother, reports CBS News. He then crashed his vehicle outside the school and entered the building around 11:32 a.m.
Lt. Christopher Olivarez of the Texas Department of Public Safety said the shooter, who was wearing body armor, barricaded himself in a fourth-grade classroom and “just began shooting numerous children and teachers that were in that classroom.” Two law enforcement officials said the suspect had a handgun, an AR-15 assault weapon, and high-capacity magazines.
When tactical law enforcement officers arrived, they were able to make forcible entry into the classroom. Gunfire was exchanged and multiple officers were shot, including a Border Patrol agent who was able to walk out of the school. The gunman was killed by responding officers.
Olivarez said all of the victims were in that one classroom, reports The Associated Press. Seventeen others were injured in the rampage.
Victims who have been identified by their families include teachers Irma Garcia and Eva Mireles, and students Nevaeh Bravo, Jackie Cazares, Makenna Elrod, Jose Flores, Eliana Garcia, Uziyah Garcia, Amerie Garza, Xavier Lopez, Jayce Luevanos, Tess Mata, Maranda Mathis, Alithia Ramirez, Annabell Rodriguez, Maite Rodriguez, Alexandria Rubio, Layla Salazar, Jailah Silguero, Eliahana Torres, and Rojelio Torres. The shooter’s grandmother, who is said to have survived but whose condition is unknown, previously work at Robb Elementary but left in 2020.
Reunification Center Set Up for Uvalde Families
After the shooting, Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District (UCISD) urged residents to stay away from the school. Students were evacuated and brought to the SSGT Willie de Leon Civic Center which served as a reunification center.
At approximately 2:00 p.m. local time, the district said parents were cleared to pick up their children. Dozens of families waited for hours to receive updates on their children, according to The Texas Tribune.
Law enforcement, crisis counselors and local officials offered support to waiting families. Officials had to take DNA samples of some parents to confirm whether their child had died. Just before midnight, the estimated 30 to 40 people who still remained were informed their children did not survive.
Uvalde, which is located 85 miles west of San Antonio, has a predominantly Hispanic population of 15,200 people. Robb Elementary serves children in the second, third, and fourth grades, and has about 600 students.
The mass shooting is the deadliest school shooting since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 that took the lives of 26 people, including 20 children aged six and seven. It is also the deadliest school shooting in Texas history. In 2018, a gunman fatally shot 10 people at Santa Fe High School.
Mary Fowler, who worked at UCISD for three decades as a physical therapist and whose grandson was at the school during the shooting, told The Texas Tribune it had just started to feel like the small town had turned a corner after the pandemic disrupted jobs and school for the last two years.
“We aren’t the richest town,” she said. “Everybody is struggling, and it was just starting to feel like we were getting back on our feet. It’s going to be tough.”
The district was set to celebrate its last day of the school year on Thursday.
Gunman Made Hints of Attack on Social Media
According to numerous reports, three days before the shooting, a photo of two AR-15 assault rifles was posted on an Instagram account linked to the shooter. The gunman also reportedly posted a photo of himself holding a high-capacity magazine.
The same account shared a picture of two rifles to its stories and tagged another user. The user said she did not know the person who tagged her but that he also messaged her saying, “got a lil secret.” Just hours before the shooting, he sent her another message saying, “I’m about to.” When she asked what he meant, he responded, “I’ll tell you before 11.”
Just 30 minutes before the shooting, the gunman sent three private messages on Facebook. The first said that he was going to shoot his grandmother, followed by another that said he had shot her. He then posted that he was going to shoot up an elementary school.
The shooter legally purchased two assault weapons just days after he turned 18. Texas State Senator John Whitmire said one of the rifles was used in the shooting and the other was found in the gunman’s truck, according to The New York Post.
During a Friday press conference, DPS Colonel Steven McCraw said a total of 58 ammunition magazines were found on or near school grounds and on the gunman. He confirmed 11 magazines were found inside the school, of which three were on the shooter’s body, two were in one classroom, and six were inside another. Five other magazines were on the ground and one was in the shooter’s rifle.
An additional 32 magazines were found outside the school but on school property, and 15 were found in the shooter’s car. There were two other magazines found in his home.
Rampage Leads to Gun Law Debates
The attack has reignited debates regarding gun control laws. Last year, the House passed two bills to expand background checks on firearms purchases. One bill would have closed a loophole on private and online sales. The other would have extended the background check review period.
Both are currently tied up in the 50-50 Senate. Democrats need at least 10 Republican votes to overcome objections from a filibuster.
“I had hoped when I became president I would not have to do this — again,” President Joe Biden said in a press conference Tuesday night. “Another massacre. Uvalde, Texas. An elementary school. Beautiful, innocent second, third and fourth graders. And how many scores of little children who witnessed what happened — see their friends die, as if they’re in a battlefield, for God’s sake. They’ll live with it the rest of their lives.”