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Nineteen children and two adults were killed in a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde County on Tuesday, making the massacre the deadliest school shooting in Texas’ history.
State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, told CNN there might be another adult dead but authorities have not confirmed it.
“My heart is broken today,” Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Hal Harrell said while holding back tears during a press conference Tuesday evening. “We’re a small community and we need your prayers to get through this.”
Gov. Greg Abbott said the shooter was killed. The shooter is believed to have acted alone, said Pete Arredondo, Uvalde CISD chief of police.
“What happened in Uvalde is a horrific tragedy that cannot be tolerated in the state of Texas,” Abbott said.
President Joe Biden has spoken with Abbott to offer his assistance, White House officials said. Biden also ordered flags on all public property and at U.S. embassies to be flown at half-staff in memory of those killed.
“Tonight, I ask the nation to pray for them. Give the parents and siblings the strength in the darkness they feel right now,” Biden said at a press briefing Tuesday evening.
Biden also made a renewed call to reform gun laws.
“As a nation, we have to ask — when in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?” he said.
Abbott identified the shooter as Salvador Ramos, an 18-year-old Uvalde resident. The man abandoned his vehicle and entered Robb Elementary with a handgun and possibly a rifle, the governor said.
The shooting started around 11:32 a.m., Arredondo said. The Uvalde school district reported an active shooter on Twitter at 12:17 p.m.
U.S. Border Patrol agents responded to a law enforcement request for assistance, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said. Law enforcement officers entered the school building and were met with gunfire from the shooter, who was barricaded inside. A Border Patrol agent shot the gunman before waiting for backup, a law enforcement official told the Associated Press.
The gunman shot his grandmother before the shooting at the school, Gutierrez told CNN. The grandmother was airlifted to San Antonio and was “still holding on” Tuesday evening, according to information given to Gutierrez by the Texas Rangers.
The Daily Dot reported the shooter had bought a rifle online recently. He posted images of two rifles in his most recent post on Instagram before the social media platform deleted the account, according to the outlet.
Robb Elementary teaches second, third and fourth grade students. The students were scheduled to celebrate their last day of the school year on Thursday.
The school had 535 students in the 2020-2021 school year, most of them Hispanic and considered economically disadvantaged. Uvalde is a relatively small city about 85 miles west of San Antonio. Its population of roughly 15,200 is predominantly Hispanic.
Earlier Tuesday, the Uvalde CISD had placed all campuses under lockdown after gunshots were fired in the area. Harrell said the school will be closed for the remainder of the academic year, though grief counseling will be offered to students.
U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, a Republican whose district includes Robb Elementary School, wrote on Twitter, “My heart breaks for the city of Uvalde. Pray for our families.” and cited a Bible verse.
The Uvalde massacre is the second deadliest shooting at a U.S. grade school on record, following the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, according to The New York Times. The massacre in Uvalde is the eighth mass shooting in a Texas public space since an Army psychiatrist opened fire at Fort Hood Army base in November 2009, killing 13 people in what was later determined to be an act of religious extremism. Five years later in April 2014, another Fort Hood soldier killed three people and wounded a dozen more on the base before he killed himself during a firefight with military police.
Since then, the pace of mass shootings in Texas has increased, along with the list of the dead:
- In July 2016, five Dallas police officers were slain by a 25-year-old who targeted officers at a Black Lives Matter protest; the gunman wounded nine other police officers and two civilians before he was killed by a remote-controlled bomb following a standoff with police.
- In November 2017, a 26-year-old man opened fire during Sunday morning services at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, killing 26 people and wounding 20 others. The gunman fled the area when a local man began shooting at him, then fatally shot himself after a vehicle pursuit.
- Six months later, in May 2018, a 17-year-old student shot eight students and two teachers to death and injured 13 at Santa Fe High School near Houston. He was arrested about 25 minutes after the shooting began.
- In August 2019, a 21-year-old man drove from suburban Dallas to El Paso, posted a racist manifesto, then began shooting people at a Walmart, targeting Latinos. He killed 23 people and injured 25 before leaving the store and surrendering to Texas Rangers nearby.
- Later that month, a 36-year-old man went on a shooting rampage in the Midland-Odessa area, leaving seven people dead and 25 wounded. The man, who had been fired from his job that morning, was shot to death by police officers outside an Odessa movie theater.
And over the past decade, state lawmakers have responded to mass shootings in Texas and elsewhere with a host of laws that have prioritized Second Amendment rights and increased Texans’ ability to carry firearms in places where they were previously prohibited.
The 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown spurred a new Texas law the following year that created a school marshal program allowing certain employees to have firearms in Texas schools.
Four years later, lawmakers allowed Texans to openly carry firearms rather than having to conceal them and required public universities to let anyone with the proper license carry concealed weapons in dorms, classrooms and campus buildings.
Frankie Miranda, the CEO of Hispanic Federation, called for concrete steps to make Latino communities safer, such as commitments to funding mental health services and gun control measures. And in a joint statement, the National Education Association and the Texas State Teachers Association demanded lawmakers address gun violence: “Tragedies such as this keep happening while elected officials do nothing, except, in Texas’ case, make firearms more available.”
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said in a statement Tuesday he was “lifting up in prayer the entire Uvalde community during this devastating time.” He also told reporters that he does not see gun control measures as effective in preventing crime.
Abbott, along with Cruz and former President Donald Trump, is scheduled to talk Friday at the National Rifle Association’s 2022 annual meeting. Politico reported that a spokesperson for U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said he wouldn’t attend the meeting, citing an unexpected change in his schedule that occurred before the Uvalde shooting.
Alexa Ura and Lomi Kriel contributed to this story.
Disclosure: Politico, Texas State Teachers Association and University of Texas at Austin have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.