By ACACIA CORONADO and JIM VERTUNO
UVALDE, Texas (AP) — The shooter who massacred 19 children and two teachers at a Texas elementary school warned on social media minutes before the attack that he had shot his grandmother and was going shoot a school, the governor said Wednesday.
Salvador Ramos, 18, used an AR-15 type semi-automatic rifle in the bloodbath on Tuesday at Robb Primary School in Uvalde. He had legally purchased two of the rifles days before the attack, shortly after his 18th birthday, authorities said.
About 30 minutes before the bloodbath, Ramos made three social media posts, Governor Gregg Abbot said. According to the governor, Ramos posted that he was going to shoot his grandmother, then he shot the woman, and finally he was going to shoot an elementary school.
Abbott said Ramos, a resident of the community about 85 miles (135 kilometers) west of San Antonio, had no known criminal or mental health history.
Seventeen people were also injured in the attack.
“Evil swept away Uvalde yesterday. Anyone who shoots their grandmother in the face must have evil in their hearts,” Abbott told a news conference. “But it’s far more evil for someone to shoot small children. It’s intolerable and unacceptable for us to have someone in the state who would kill small children in our schools.
Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who is running against Abbott for governor this year, interrupted the press conference, calling the Republican’s response to the tragedy “predictable.” O’Rourke was escorted away as members of the crowd shouted at him, with one man calling him a “sick son of a bitch”.
As details of the latest massacre to rock the United States have emerged, grief has engulfed the small town of Uvalde, which has 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.”
Law enforcement eventually burst into the classroom and killed the shooter. Police and others responding to the attack also smashed the windows of the school to allow students and teachers to escape.
Investigators did not immediately reveal a motive. But in chilling social media posts in the days and hours leading up to the massacre, an account that appeared to belong to Ramos displayed photos of his guns and seemed to indicate something was about to happen.
The attack in the predominantly Latino town of Uvalde was the deadliest school shooting in the United States 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 endless series of massacres at churches, schools, stores and other sites across the United States. Just 10 days earlier, 10 black people were gunned down in a racist rampage at 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.
On the day Ramos purchased his second gun last week, an Instagram account that investigators say apparently belongs to Ramos carried a photo of two AR-style guns. Ramos apparently tagged another Instagram user, who has over 10,000 followers, asking him to share the photo with his followers.
“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.
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 wounded his grandmother, then fled, 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 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.
A tactical team forced their way into the classroom where the attacker was locked up and was met with gunfire from Ramos, but shot and killed him, according to Olivarez.
In the aftermath, the families of Uvalde waited hours to hear from their children. At the city’s civic center where some gathered on Tuesday evening, the silence was repeatedly broken by shouts and groans. “No! Please, no!” shouted a man, kissing another man. On Wednesday morning, volunteers were seen arriving with Bibles and therapy dogs.
Staff in smocks and relatives of the devastated victims could be seen crying as they left Uvalde Memorial Hospital, where many 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 in serious condition.
Law enforcement officers investigating the bloodshed began serving search warrants and collecting phone and other records. They also sought to contact Ramos’ relatives and find the weapons.
Uvalde, home to about 16,000 people, is about 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 the school counted down to the final days of the school year with a series of themed days. Tuesday was to be “Footloose and Fancy”, with students wearing beautiful outfits.
Condolences poured in from leaders around the world. Pope Francis said it was time to say “enough” to the indiscriminate arms trade! Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said his country was also experiencing “the pain of losing innocent young lives”.
Texas, which has some of the most gun-friendly laws in the country, has seen some of the deadliest shootings in the United States in the past five years.
In 2018, a gunman killed 10 people at Santa Fe High School in the Houston area. A year earlier, a gunman shot dead more than two dozen people 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 took place days before the start of the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Houston. Governor Greg. Abbott and the two U.S. senators from Texas, all Republicans, were among the speakers scheduled at a forum on Friday.
This story was first published on May 24, 2022. It has been corrected to reflect this state, Senator Roland Gutierrez said the shooter shot his grandmother before going to school; he didn’t say the shooter killed his grandmother. It has also been updated to correct the spelling of the 10-year-old great-granddaughter’s name.
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.
Read more about the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas: https://apnews.com/hub/school-shootings