Uwalde, Texas – An 18-year-old gunman opened fire Tuesday at a Texas primary school, killing at least 19 children as he walked from classroom to classroom, officials said in the deadliest shooting at a school in nearly a decade and the last horrific moment for one side marked by a series of massacres. The attacker was killed by police.
Two adults were among the dead, authorities said. Gov. Greg Abbott said one of them was a teacher.
The Robb Elementary School attack in the heavily Latin American city of Uwalde was the deadliest shooting in an American school since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012.
Hours after the attack, families were still waiting for a message about their children.
Outside the city center, where families were told to wait for news of their loved ones, the silence was repeatedly broken by screams and sobs. “No! Please don’t!” One man shouted as he hugged another.
“My heart is broken today,” said Hal Harel, head of the school district. “We are a small community and we will need your prayers to get through this.”
Adolfo Cruz, a 69-year-old air conditioning repairman, was still out of school as the sun set, searching for information about his 10-year-old great-granddaughter, Elijah Cruz Torres.
He went to the scene after receiving a terrifying call from his daughter shortly after the first reports of the shooting. He said other relatives were in the hospital and downtown.
Waiting, he said, was the hardest moment of his life.
“I hope she’s alive,” Cruz said.
The attack came just 10 days after a deadly racist rampage at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, added to the years-long series of massacres in churches, schools and shops. And the prospects for any reform of national gun regulations seemed as murky, if not more murky, than after Sandy Hook’s death.
But President Joe Biden seemed ready for battle, calling for new arms restrictions on the nation hours after the attack.
“As a nation, we must ask ourselves, when, for God’s sake, will we face the arms lobby?” When in God’s name will we do what needs to be done? ” Biden asked. “Why are we ready to live with this carnage?”
Many of the injured were rushed to Uwalde Memorial Hospital, where friction staff and relatives of the devastated victims could be seen crying as they left the complex.
Authorities did not immediately reveal a motive, but identified the attacker as Salvador Ramos, a resident of the community about 85 miles (135 kilometers) west of San Antonio. Law enforcement officials said he acted alone.
The attack came when Rob Elementary School was counting down to the last days of the school year with a series of themed days. Tuesday was supposed to be “Footloose and Fancy”, and the students will wear nice clothes and shoes.
The school has nearly 600 students in second, third and fourth grade. The majority of students are Hispanic.
Ramos has hinted on social media that an attack could take place, according to state senator Roland Gutierrez, who said he had been informed by state police. He noted that the shooter “suggested that the children be careful” and that he bought two “weapons of attack” after he turned 18.
Ramos shot his grandmother before heading to school, Gutierrez said.
Other officials later said the grandmother survived and was being treated because her condition was unknown.
Investigators believe Ramos posted photos on Instagram of two weapons he used in the shooting, and they are investigating whether he made statements online, alluding to the attack in the hours before the attack, a law enforcement official said.
Law enforcement officers handed out a number of search warrants on Tuesday night and collected phone and other records, the official said. Investigators also tried to contact Ramos’ relatives and track down the firearms.
The officer was unable to publicly discuss details of the investigation and spoke to the Associated Press, provided he remained anonymous.
The attack began around 11:30 a.m. when the attacker crashed his car in front of the school and rushed into the building, according to Travis Considine, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety. A resident who heard the crash called 911 and two local police officers exchanged fire with the shooter.
Both officers were shot dead, although it was unclear where the confrontation broke out on campus or how long it took before more authorities arrived.
Meanwhile, teams of Border Patrol agents were vying for the school, including 10 to 15 members of a SWAT-like tactical and counterterrorism unit, said Jason Owens, a senior regional Border Patrol officer.
A border patrol agent who was working nearby when the shooting began rushed to the school without waiting for reinforcements and shot the shooter behind the barricade, according to a law enforcement official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized. to talk about it.
The agent was injured but managed to leave the school, a law enforcement source said.
Owens confirmed that the agent suffered minor injuries, but did not give details of the confrontation.
He said some local agents have children at Rob Elementary School.
“We have children from the border patrol who go to this school. Hit everyone, “he said.
It is not immediately clear how many people were injured, but Uwalde police chief Pete Aredondo said there were “several injuries”. Earlier, the Uwalde Memorial Hospital said 13 children had been taken there. Another hospital said a 66-year-old woman was in critical condition.
Uwalde, home to about 16,000 people, is about 75 miles (120 kilometers) from the Mexican border. Robb Elementary is mostly in a residential area with modest houses.
The Uwalde tragedy was the deadliest school shooting in Texas history, adding to the grim outcome in the state, which has been the site of some of the deadliest shootings in the United States in five years.
In 2018, a gunman fatally shot dead 10 people at a high school in Santa Fe, Houston. A year earlier, a gunman at a church in Texas killed more than two dozen people during a Sunday service in the small town of Sutherland Springs. In 2019, another gunman at Walmart in El Paso killed 23 people in a racist attack targeting Latinos.
The shooting came days before the National Rifle Association’s annual congress began in Houston. Abbott and the two U.S. senators from Texas were among the elected Republicans who were scheduled to speak at a forum for leaders on Friday sponsored by the NRA lobby group.
In the years since Sandy Hook, the debate on gun control in Congress has grown and dwindled. Lawmakers’ efforts to change U.S. gun policy in any significant way are constantly facing obstacles from Republicans and the influence of outside groups such as the NRA.
A year later, Sandy Hook, Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, and Patrick J. Tumi, a Republican from Pennsylvania, has agreed on a bipartisan proposal to expand the nation’s background check system. But the measure failed in a Senate vote without enough support to overcome the 60-vote hurdle.
Then-President Barack Obama, who put gun control at the center of his administration’s goals after the Newtown shooting, called Congress’s failure to act “a very shameful day for Washington.”
Last year, the House of Representatives passed two bills to expand inspections for the purchase of firearms. A bill would close the door on private and online sales. The other would extend the review review period. Both have faded in the 50-50 Senate, where Democrats need at least 10 Republican votes to overcome a filibuster’s objections.
This story has been corrected to reflect that State Senator Roland Gutierrez said the shooter shot his grandmother before he went to school; he did not say that the shooter had killed his grandmother.
Eugene Garcia and Dario Lopez-Mills in Uwalde, Jake Bleiberg in Dallas, Ben Fox, Michael Balsamo and Eric Tucker in Washington, Paul J. Weber in Austin, Juan Lozano in Houston, Gene Johnson in Seattle and Ronda Schaffner in New York contributed to this report.
More about school shooting in Uwalde, Texas: https://apnews.com/hub/school-shootings
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