A day after 19 students and 2 teachers were killed in a Texas elementary school shooting, authorities said that the 18-year-old gunman had posted a warning online. Police officials said that they broke windows to rescue students and staff as the shooter reportedly made his way through the school hallway and gunned down fourth-graders.
As harrowing details emerged of the attack at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, US President Joe Biden vowed to act to tighten gun control. Biden said he and first lady Jill Biden will travel to Uvalde, Texas, in the coming days to console the affected families.
Meanwhile, at least 17 people suffered non-life-threatening injuries, including “multiple children” who survived the gunfire in their classroom. The details of the deceased and injured have not been released by the authorities.
Within hours of the shooting, unverified claims that the gunman was an immigrant living in the US illegally, or transgender, quickly emerged on Twitter, Reddit and other social media platforms. They were accompanied by familiar conspiracy theories suggesting the entire shooting was somehow staged, reported the Associated Press.
However, officials identified the gunman as Salvador Ramos and said he was shot dead by the police. He was a high school dropout with no known criminal record or history of mental illness.
How the attack unfolded
After shooting his grandmother, he fled the home they shared and crashed his car near Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, about 130 km west of San Antonio. A school police officer approached him outside the building, according to officials, but no gunfire was exchanged. Authorities offered few additional details of that encounter, which is likely to become a focus of investigations, except that the suspect dropped a bag full of ammunition on the ground and ran toward the school when he saw the officer.
Ramos then entered the school through a back door carrying an AR-15-style rifle and made his way down two hallways to a fourth-grade classroom where he shot all of the people who were killed. Authorities said he had legally purchased two rifles and 375 rounds of ammunition days before the shooting.
Meanwhile, police surrounded the building, breaking windows to help children and staff escape. US Border Patrol agents also responded and entered the building to confront the shooter, with one agent wounded “in the crossfire,” the Department of Homeland Security said on Twitter.
Eventually, Ramos was shot and killed by law enforcement.
Online warning ignored?
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said at a news conference that the shooter had on Tuesday sent a message online saying he was going to shoot his grandmother and another one confirming he had done so. Ramos’ grandmother, whom the suspect shot in the face shortly before attacking the school, survived and called the police.
Ramos gave no warning except for the online posts.
The posts were made on Facebook, the governor said, but spokespeople for Facebook’s parent company, Meta Platforms, said they were private one-to-one messages discovered after the shooting. The company declined to say who received the messages or which of Meta’s platforms, such as Messenger or Instagram, was used to send them.
The two staff members killed were identified as Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia, fourth-grade teachers trapped in the classroom with their students when the shooting began.
While the names of those killed and wounded have not been released officially, several parents and family members took to social media to pay tribute to their loved ones.
Fourth-graders Jacklyn Cazares, Alexandria Aniyah Rubio, Jailah Silguero, Jayce Carmelo Luevanos, Tess Mata, Xavier Lope, Ellie Garcia, Annabelle Rodriguez and Jacklyn Jaylen Cazares are some of the students who were killed in the shooting, as per news reporting quoting their parents or relatives.
“My baby you didn’t deserve this,” Veronica Luevanos, the mother of fourth-grader Jailah Silguero, wrote on Facebook on Wednesday. The post also mourned the girl’s classmates, teachers and cousin Jayce Carmelo Luevanos, who also were killed in the shooting.
GoFundMe pages have been set up for the community and for some of the families, aiming to raise funds to pay for funerals.
Seeking money for the burial of fourth-grader Xavier Lopez, relatives wrote: “We as a family know he is now with his Grandpa Benny in the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Ruckus at a press conference
In a sign of the charged political atmosphere, Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic candidate challenging Republican Governor Abbott in a November election, interrupted the news conference to confront Abbott over the state’s permissive gun laws, shouting “You are doing nothing!”
Several officials gathered on stage around the governor yelled at O’Rourke. “You’re a sick son of a bitch who would come to a deal like this to make a political issue,” one of them said, though it was not clear who.
O’Rourke was escorted out of the building and spoke to reporters outside. He said it was “insane” that an 18-year-old was legally permitted to acquire a semi-automatic rifle and vowed to pursue gun restrictions.
“We can get that done if we had a governor that cared more about the people of Texas than he does this own political career or his fealty to the NRA,” he said, referring to the National Rifle Association, a gun-rights advocacy organisation.
Abbott said stringent gun laws do not prevent violence, citing states such as New York. He said policymakers should instead focus on mental health treatment and prevention.
About the school
The Robb Elementary School in Texas reportedly has an enrollment of just under 600 students, nearly 90% of them Hispanic. Situated in the heavily Latino town of Uvalde, the school serves a close-knit community of students in the second, third and fourth grades — that is, kids of around seven to ten years of age.
This was the school’s last week of classes before the summer break. A Reuters report said that the students had visited the zoo and participated in a gifted-and-talented showcase, recent posts on the school’s Facebook page showed. Tuesday was awards day, according to the calendar, and pupils were invited to wear a nice outfit and fun shoes as part of a “footloose and fancy” theme.
The school district said the elementary school, where the student mission statement is “Live. Learn. Love. Lead,” would remain closed for the final days of the school year.
Biden to visit Texas ‘in coming days’
Biden said he and first lady Jill Biden will visit the grieving families in the coming days, but did not share details.
“Jill and I will be travelling to Texas in the coming days to meet with the families to let them know we have a sense, just a sense of their pain, and, hopefully, bring some little comfort to a community in shock and grief and trauma,” Biden said.
A little more than a week ago, he visited Buffalo, New York, to console the families of 10 people killed at a supermarket there — nearly all of them Black — by an avowed white supremacist. “I’m sick and tired of it,” Biden said on Wednesday.
(Compiled from Reuters and Associated Press reports)