UVALDE, Texas — The gunman who killed 19 children and two teachers at a rural Texas elementary school on Tuesday entered the building despite being confronted by an armed school security officer, then injured two police officers and caused a stalemate in the school for more than a year. hours, state police officials said.
While gaps remained in the timeline of events, details emerged on Wednesday of a prolonged massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. What started around 11:30 a.m. with the first report of an armed man approaching the school ended when specialist officers broke into a few adjacent classrooms and killed the gunman who had been barricaded inside just after 1 p.m., state police officials said.
It was unknown how many people died in the first minutes of the massacre, the deadliest at a US school since 20 children and six teachers were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012. But officials said the officers successfully restrained the gunman, identified as Salvador Ramos, until more specially trained officers could arrive.
But even as the details of the attack became clearer, the motivation behind the eruption of violence remained frustratingly opaque. In the absence of explanation, there was only deep sadness in a community unaccustomed to outside attention, and a raw renewal of the national debate over gun law and the mind-boggling rate of gun violence in America.
All the victims had been identified by Wednesday by officials, who had yet to release their names, but the tragedy’s toll was only beginning to take shape.
All 21 fatalities occurred in a single area of the school, authorities said. Among them were Eva Mireles, a teacher who ran marathons in her spare time, and Jailah Silguero, 10, the youngest of four children. “I can’t believe this happened to my daughter,” her father, Jacob Silguero, said crying during an interview. “I’ve always been afraid of losing a child.”
President Biden said he would travel to Uvalde in the coming days to comfort residents. He did not call on Congress to enact gun safety legislation, but said in comments Wednesday that the “Second Amendment is not absolute” and that previous gun safety laws did not violate its constitutional protections. “These actions that we’ve taken before, they’re saving lives,” he said. “They can do it again.”
Still, with little apparent opening up at the federal level, the Democrat-controlled states came over to make their own changes. In New York, Governor Kathy Hochul said she would work to raise the age for buying AR-15-style weapons, such as the Texas shooter, to 21 — “minimum” –. In California, the state Senate has introduced a bill along party lines proposed by Governor Gavin Newsom and modeled on Texas’ restrictive abortion law that would allow private individuals to sue those who make or sell banned phantom weapons, ghost weapon kits, and assault style. weapons.
“This state is leaning forward,” said Mr. newsom. “We’re leaning forward.”
Top Texas officials gathered in Uvalde for an emotional press conference that began with calls for unity in the wake of the assassination. “It’s unacceptable and unacceptable to have someone in this state who would kill small children in our schools,” said Governor Greg Abbott, who has celebrated the easing of gun laws in Texas and last year pushed for a new law that most Allows Texans to carry a gun without a license.
But the sombre tone Abbott tried to strike was turned on its head by Beto O’Rourke, the Democrat who challenged Abbott’s reelection, who blamed the governor for the repeated massacre in the state. “The time to stop the next shooting is now and you do nothing,” said Mr. O’Rourke.
“Sit down, you’re out of line and a disgrace,” replied the Lieutenant Governor, Dan Patrick.
The interruption and ensuing vitriol of the stage, which was almost completely filled with Republican officials, revealed in an instant the deep-seated battle lines over gun ownership and mass murder in the United States.
“I hate to say this, but more people get shot every weekend in Chicago than in schools in Texas,” Abbott said later. He criticized “people who think that, well, ‘maybe we’ll just apply tougher gun laws — it’s going to fix it,'” saying that “Chicago and LA and New York disprove that statement.”
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker later responded by pointing to evidence that “most of the guns used in Chicago shootings come from states with lax gun laws.”
Mr Patrick said restricting access to just one at smaller schools could be a solution to keep students safe. He also suggested arming teachers. Mr Abbott stressed the need for better mental health care, although he did not suggest how to improve access to it in the state.
But in Mr Ramos’ case, there was little to officially sound the alarm ahead of the shooting, officials said. No history of mental illness. No clear criminal record. “We see no motive or catalyst at this time,” said Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
But those who knew the shooter said he had slipped out: He appeared to have dropped out of high school and often scared colleagues at a fast-food restaurant where he worked. If he was caught, he would lash out in response. Acquaintances said that he often missed class and had few friends.
“He swore at the customers, at the managers, even at me,” said Jocelyn Rodriguez, 19, an employee of the Wendy’s restaurant. She remembered that he once told her, “I’m going to shoot the Wendys,” but she never took his threats seriously. “I thought he was kidding.”
Two weeks ago, she said, he stopped coming to work.
He bought an AR-style rifle from a local retailer on May 17, a day after his 18th birthday. Then he bought another one on May 20, officials said. In between, he bought 375 ammunition.
He had communicated his plans diagonally with a 15-year-old girl in Germany whom he had recently met online. The girl, who wanted to be identified only by her nickname Cece, said he video-phoned her from a gun store in the days around his birthday, where he told her he was buying a gun. Mr Ramos also showed her a black bag during the video call that appeared to contain many ammunition magazines and at least one handgun.
On Tuesday mornings, parents dropped off their children at Robb Elementary, a cheerful brick schoolhouse on the outskirts of Uvalde where everyone was preparing for summer vacation.
Narcedalia Luna and her 8-year-old grandson, a third-grader, attended a year-end awards ceremony in the school cafeteria. But her grandson told her he wanted to go home early. So they did. “I gave in and I’m glad I did,” she said.
They returned to their house on Diaz Street.
On that same short street, less than half a mile from the school, Mr. Ramos lived with his grandmother in a modest house. On Tuesday morning, Mr. Ramos texted the girl in Germany just after 11 a.m., apparently annoyed that his grandmother was calling AT&T on his cell phone. “I’m hurting her,” he wrote. The screenshots don’t show Cece answering, but at 11:21 AM, Mr. Ramos sent another text, “I just shot my grandma in the head,” immediately followed by another, “I’m going to shoot an elementary school.”
Mr Ramos, officials said, had seized one of the weapons he had bought and shot his 66-year-old grandmother in the face.†
The injured woman rushed to a neighbor’s house for help as Mr. Ramos drove off in her pickup truck, carrying a bag of ammunition and the two guns. Ms Luna said another neighbor saw the grandmother “running down the street with blood on her face”.
The truck Mr Ramos was driving, officials said, crashed at high speed next to the school at about 11:30 a.m
As he approached the school, officials said, he met a Uvalde school district official. There were conflicting reports, state police officials said, as to whether there were any gunshots at the time.
When the gunman approached, Juan Paulo Ybarra Jr. said, his sister, a 10-year-old student at Robb Elementary, was watching a movie in her fourth grade. He said she looked out the classroom window and saw a man outside with a gun, then warned her teacher. Soon, the class heard gunshots aimed at nearby windows, she told him.
Mr Ybarra said his sister described how she and her classmates jumped out of the window one by one and ran to a funeral home across the street in search of refuge.
The shooter entered the school. After he entered, two officers from Uvalde Police arrived who attacked the gunman and were immediately fired upon with gunfire, officials said. Both were shot.
Dozens of police officers soon arrived, but the gunman had barricaded himself in what Mr Abbott described as internally connected classrooms. It would take a tactical team, including specialized Border Patrol agents, to finally break through the room.
When they entered, one of the officers held up a shield for the other officers to find out, said an official who was aware of the investigation. Three of the officers fired their weapons once inside the room, hitting the gunman several times and killing him shortly after 1 p.m.
In Uvalde, in a rural area near the Mexican border dotted with desert willows and thick-toothed maples, there are so few places to host major events that the governor’s press conference was held at the same high school as the shooter.
For the summer, classes would depart on Thursdays. Instead, the year ended early as parents faced the unthinkable and waited hours on Tuesday for the dreaded confirmation about their children’s fate, with some providing DNA swabs to prove their relationship.
“They were beautiful, innocent children,” said George Rodriguez, who was associated with two children killed in a shooting: a niece and a 10-year-old boy, Jose Flores, who he said had been like a grandson. Rodriguez said a counseling session at the local town hall had brought little relief from the pain of losing the boy whose photo he kept in his wallet, “my little Josécito”.
Reporting contributed by James Dobbins† Jesus Jimenez† Michael Levenson† David Montgomery† Josh Peck† Frances Robles† Edgar Sandoval† Michael D. Shear† Eileen Sullivan and Glenn Thrush† Susan C. Beachy† Jack Begg and Kirsten Noyes research contributed.