UVALDE, Texas—At least 19 children and two adults were dead after a teenage gunman wearing body armor shot his grandmother before opening fire at an elementary school on Tuesday shortly after 11:30 a.m. in the latest episode of mass gun violence to terrorize the country.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the carnage at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde was carried out by a local 18-year-old student, Salvador Ramos, who was shot and killed by law enforcement. After Ramos shot his grandmother at her home, local law enforcement got a call about a car crash involving an armed man close to the school, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesperson Lt. Chris Olivarez said Tuesday evening.
“As soon as he made entry into the school, he started shooting children, teachers, whoever was in his way, he was shooting everybody,” he said. Ramos, who was armed with a handgun and possibly a rifle, was wearing body armor, Olivarez added. A parent told media at the scene that the shooter opened fire in a fourth-grade classroom near the entrance, sending children scrambling out of windows. Many hid in a nearby funeral home while the shooter carried out the carnage.
A Border Patrol agent who was in the area as the massacre unfolded was quick to spring into action, responding to the school without waiting for other officers to arrive, according to the AP. That agent ultimately killed Ramos as he sought cover behind a barricade.
What appeared to be the shooter’s Instagram account, deleted shortly after Abbott publicly identified him, featured photos and stories of automatic firearms—as well as selfies strongly resembling the mugshot of the killer shared by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Several of Ramos’ former friends said he often posted images of guns and videos of himself screaming at his mother, with whom he appeared to have a fraught relationship.
Of the weapons posted, one appeared to be a Daniel Defense AR-15 with a high-capacity magazine. A TikTok account with the same handle and profile picture as the Instagram, also disappeared in the minutes following the Texas governor’s press conference, featured only a clip of a mobile game and the line “Kids be scared IRL.” Both accounts used the bio line TheBiggestOpp.
The image of the guns tagged a teenager in Los Angeles, who shared a story on her own account indicating she didn’t know the shooter, including apparent direct messages he sent her requesting she share the photos and cryptically referring to a “secret” he wanted to share.
Offline, Ramos had a job at Wendy’s as recently as this past March, multiple people who knew him told The Daily Beast, with one former co-worker suggesting he had an aggressive streak.
The shooting came just 10 days after an 18-year-old white supremacist allegedly killed 10 people in an upstate New York supermarket in what had been, until now, the deadliest mass shooting of the year. Tuesday’s horror is also the deadliest shooting at an elementary school since 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.
At a Tuesday evening briefing, Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo said the shooting unfolded at around 11:32 a.m. just two days before the start of summer vacation. All the injured students were in the second, third, and fourth grades.
“The suspect did act alone during this heinous crime,” Arredondo said.
Eva Mireles, a fourth-grade teacher, was identified by relatives as being among the slain adults.
“I’m furious that these shootings continue. These children are innocent. Rifles should not be easily available to all. This is my hometown, a small community of less than 20,000. I never imagined this would happen to especially loved ones... All we can do is pray hard for our country, state, schools, and especially the families of all,” her aunt, Lydia Martinez Delgado, said in a statement to ABC 7.
Nikki Jackson was from one of about 14 families waiting at the Uvalde Civic Center on Tuesday evening for updates from authorities on the missing. She feared the worst: that her nephew, Uziyah Garcia, was among the murdered children.
The fourth-grader was in the classroom where the teacher was killed, she said. On Facebook, Jackson shared a desperate plea: “We are being told some kids ran from school into the houses in the neighborhood. Please share and if anyone sees him CONTACT ME ASAP.”
When a group of dads left the building to search for kids, Jackson handed one of the men a picture of Uziyah, she said. “I’m just hoping he’s safe,” she told The Daily Beast. “They haven’t told us anything. They just have a bunch of us at the Civic Center waiting.”
“My head is just not clear,” she added. “I just don’t understand how we don’t have any information in here, and yet the outside world is saying how many kids are dead, but the police won’t tell us anything. We have to see it on the media and the news first. They keep telling us there’s no information, that’s it.”
“I’m just hoping they say my nephew is one of the kids who ran away,” Jackson continued, adding that Uziyah is her sister’s child, but lives in her home, and that she’s his guardian. Uziyah loves school, gaming, and playing basketball with his friends, Jackson said. His whole bedroom is decorated with Fortnite memorabilia.
Uziyah’s grandfather, Manny Renfro, later told the AP the frantic search for his grandson had ended in heartbreak, and the 8-year-old was confirmed to be among the dead.
“The sweetest little boy that I’ve ever known,” he was quoted saying. “I’m not just saying that because he was my grandkid.”
Uvalde Memorial Hospital CEO Thomas Nordwick told The Daily Beast that the hospital received 15 children via ambulance or buses. Two were declared dead upon arrival, another two children were transferred by air ambulance to San Antonio, which is about 90 miles away, and others were still being treated. A male in his mid-forties was also treated for minor injuries, he said.
University Health in San Antonio said it received two patients, a 66-year-old woman and 10-year-old girl, who were both in critical condition. Another local hospital said it was treating a child and an adult but didn’t provide details on their condition or injuries.
In an emotional speech broadcast from the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Tuesday evening, President Joe Biden wondered “Where in God’s name is our backbone?”
“Why are we willing to live with this carnage? Why do we keep letting this happen?” Biden asked.