Online messages presaged an attack on a fourth grade class
Sheena Rodriguez, 38, right, presents a state trooper with a bouquet of flowers on Wednesday, honoring the victims killed in Tuesday’s shooting, outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Desperation turned to heartbreaking grief for the families of slain schoolchildren after an 18-year-old gunman barricaded himself in their classroom in Texas and began shooting, killing at least 19 fourth-graders and their two teachers. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
UVALDE, Texas – The gunman who massacred 19 children and two teachers at a Texas elementary school warned in online posts just before the attack that he had shot his grandmother and was going to shoot a school, the governor said Wednesday.
Salvador Ramos, 18, used an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle in Tuesday’s bloodshed at Robb Primary School in Uvalde that ended in a fourth grade classroom storming year by the police and killed him. He had legally bought two of these rifles a few days before.
“Evil swept through Uvalde yesterday. Anyone who shoots their grandmother in the face must have evil in their hearts,” Texas 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 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 he had specified a school.
Ramos sent Facebook text messages that were “discovered after the terrible tragedy”, company spokesman Andy Stone said.
Amid calls across the country 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 “sick”.
Officials are continuing their investigations Wednesday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. On Tuesday, Salvador Ramos, 18, entered the school and killed several people, including students. (Jerry Lara/The San Antonio Express-News via AP)
As details of the latest mass murder 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 a school district police officer.
“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.
Police and others responding to the attack circled the school breaking windows to allow students and teachers to escape. Officers eventually burst into the classroom and killed Ramos.
The bloodshed was the latest in a seemingly endless series of massacres at churches, schools, shops and other sites across the country. 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, President Joe Biden pleaded for Americans to “stand up to the gun lobby” and enact tougher restrictions, saying, “When in the name of God are we going to do what must be done ? 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 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 said apparently belonged to him bore a photo of two AR-type rifles. 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”.
Officers found one of the rifles in Ramos’ truck, the other in the school, according to lawmakers’ briefing. Ramos was wearing a tactical vest but there were no reinforced armor plates inside, lawmakers said. He also dropped a backpack containing 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 on 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 shots with two arriving Uvalde officers 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 yelled twice, according to Silva. “The teacher didn’t even have time to lock the door,” he said.