Shooting in Texas: a shooter warned online of his plan
UVALDE, Texas –
The shooter who slaughtered 19 children and two teachers at a Texas elementary school had warned in online posts minutes before the attack that he had shot his grandmother and was going to shoot a school, said said the governor on Wednesday.
Salvador Ramos, 18, used an AR-15 type semi-automatic rifle in Tuesday’s bloodshed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde that ended in a classroom storming by the police and killing him. He had legally purchased two such rifles days earlier, shortly after his birthday, authorities said.
“Evil swept away Uvalde yesterday. Anyone who shoots their grandmother in the face must have evil in their hearts,” Governor Greg Abbott said. “But it’s far more diabolical for someone to shoot down small children.”
Investigators shed no light on the motive for the attack, which also injured at least 17 people. The governor said Ramos, a resident of the small town about 85 miles (135 kilometers) west of San Antonio, had no known criminal or mental health history.
But about half an hour before the bloodshed, Ramos sent three messages online, Abbott said. Ramos wrote in the first that he was going to shoot his grandmother, then he shot the woman, and finally he was going to shoot an elementary school, according to Abbott. It was unclear if Ramos specified which school.
Ramos sent private text messages on Facebook that were “discovered after the terrible tragedy”, company spokesman Andy Stone said. He said Facebook is cooperating with investigators.
Amid calls in the United States for tougher gun restrictions, the Republican governor has repeatedly spoken out about mental health issues among Texas youth and argued that tougher gun laws fire in Chicago, New York and California are ineffective.
Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who is running against Abbott for governor, interrupted Abbott’s press conference and called the tragedy “predictable.” Pointing his finger at Abbott, he said: “It’s up to you until you choose to do something different. It will continue to happen. O’Rourke was escorted away as members of the crowd shouted at him, with one man calling him a “sick son of a bitch”.
Texas has some of the most gun-friendly laws in the country and has been the site of some of the deadliest shootings in the United States in the past five years.
As details of the latest mass murder to rock the United States emerged, grief engulfed Uvalde, a population of 16,000.
Among the dead were a 10-year-old girl, Eliahna Garcia, who loved to sing, dance and play basketball; fellow fourth grader Xavier Javier Lopez, who was looking forward to a summer of swimming; and a teacher, Eva Mireles, with 17 years of experience whose husband is an officer with the school district police department.
“I just don’t know how people can sell this kind of gun to an 18-year-old,” Eliahna’s aunt Siria Arizmendi said angrily through tears. “What is he going to use it for if not for this purpose?”
Texas Department of Public Safety Lt. Christopher Olivarez told CNN that all of those killed were in the same fourth-grade class.
The killer “barricaded himself locking the door and just started shooting the kids and the teachers inside that classroom,” Olivarez said. “It just shows you the utter evil of the shooter.”
Police and others responding to the attack also smashed the windows of the school to allow students and teachers to escape. Law enforcement eventually burst into the classroom and killed Ramos in a final gunfight, authorities said.
The attack in the predominantly Latino town was the deadliest school shooting in the United States since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012.
The bloodshed was the latest in a seemingly endless series of massacres at churches, schools, stores and other sites across the US Just 10 days earlier, 10 black people were gunned down in a racist rampage in a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.
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 in God’s name are we going to do what needs to be over?”
But the prospects for national gun regulatory reform looked bleak. Repeated attempts over the years to expand background checks and enact other restrictions have been met with Republican opposition in Congress.
The shooting took place days before the start of the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Houston, with the governor of Texas and the state’s two Republican U.S. senators scheduled to speak.
On social media in the days and hours leading up to the massacre, Ramos seemed to hint that something was about to happen.
On the day he bought his second gun last week, an Instagram account that investigators say apparently belonged to Ramos carried a picture of two AR-style guns. This post tagged another Instagram user, one with over 10,000 followers, asking her to share the photo.
“I barely know you and you tag me in a photo with guns,” replied the Instagram user, who has since deleted his profile. “It’s just scary.”
On the morning of the attack, the account linked to the shooter replied, “I’m about to do it.”
Instagram confirmed to The Associated Press that it was working with law enforcement to review the account, but declined to answer questions about the posts.
Investigators are also looking at an account on TikTok, possibly belonging to the shooter, with a profile that reads: “Kids Are Scared IRL”, an acronym meaning “in real life”. The profile is not dated.
Investigators don’t yet know why Ramos targeted the school, said Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
“We don’t see a pattern or a catalyst right now,” he said.
Officers found one of the rifles in Ramos’ truck, the other in the school, according to the briefing given to lawmakers. Ramos wore a tactical vest, but there were no reinforced armor plates inside, lawmakers said. He also dropped a backpack containing several magazines full of ammunition near the entrance to the school.
One of the firearms was purchased from a federally licensed dealer in the Uvalde area on May 17, according to State Senator John Whitmire, who was briefed by investigators. Ramos bought 375 rounds the next day, then bought the second rifle last Friday.
On Tuesday morning, Ramos shot and injured his grandmother in her home, then left. Neighbors called police when she staggered outside and saw she had been shot in the face, Department of Public Safety spokesman Travis Considine said.
Ramos then crashed his truck through a railing on school grounds, and an officer from the Uvalde School District exchanged gunfire with him and was injured, Considine said. Ramos went inside and exchanged more gunfire with two police officers arriving from Uvalde, who were still outside, Considine said. These officers were also injured.
Dillon Silva, whose nephew was in a nearby classroom, said students were watching the Disney movie “Moana” when they heard several loud noises and a bullet shattered a window. Moments later, their teacher saw the attacker walk through the door.
“Oh, my God, he has a gun! the professor shouted twice, according to Silva. “The teacher didn’t even have time to lock the door,” he said.
On Wednesday morning, volunteers were seen arriving at the city’s civic center with Bibles and therapy dogs. Three children and an adult remained in a hospital in San Antonio, where two of them – a 66-year-old woman and a 10-year-old girl – were listed in serious condition.
Uvalde is approximately 75 miles (120 kilometers) from the Mexican border. Robb Elementary, with nearly 600 students in second, third, and fourth grades, is a one-story brick structure in a mostly residential neighborhood of modest homes.
The tight-knit community, built around a shaded central plaza, includes many Hispanic families who have lived there for generations. It sits amidst fields of cabbage, onions, carrots and other vegetables. But many of the most stable jobs are provided by companies that produce building materials.
The attack came as Robb Elementary counted down to the final days of the school year with a series of themed days. Tuesday was “Footloose and Fancy”, with students wearing beautiful outfits.
Eugene Garcia, Dario Lopez-Mills and Elliot Spagat in Uvalde, Jake Bleiberg in Dallas, Ben Fox, Michael Balsamo, Amanda Seitz and Eric Tucker in Washington, Paul J. Weber in Austin, Juan Lozano in Houston, Gene Johnson in Seattle and Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.