- Nineteen pupils aged between seven and 11 are dead after another mass shooting at an elementary school
- Xavier Lopez, 10, Uziyah Garcia, nine, Makenna Elrod, 10, Amerie Jo Garcia, 10,
- Eliahana Torres, 10, and Ellie, whose age and surname was not immediately available, were among the dead at Robb Elementary School, Texas
- Eva Mireles, 44, and Irma Garcia, both teachers, were killed in the attack that began around 11.30 am Tuesday
- Salvador Ramos, 18, was identified as the gunman who shot his grandmother before driving to the school and opening fire before he was shot dead by a Border Patrol agent a short time later
- Joe Biden condemned the killings and opened a gun control debate, urging voters to ‘turn this pain into action’
Nineteen pupils aged between seven and 11 years old have been shot dead along with two of their teachers by an 18-year-old gunman who has also been killed in the latest school mass shooting to blight America – the deadliest since Sandy Hook almost a decade ago.
Salvador Ramos – a fast-food worker described as a lonely child who was bullied for his lisp and for wearing eyeliner – carried out the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, around 11.30 am Tuesday after shooting his grandmother at a house elsewhere in the city, reportedly after an argument about failing to graduate.
Police and officials said Ramos, who had purchased a pair of rifles for his 18th birthday and showed them off on social media, fled the scene of the first shooting in a car armed with a handgun, ‘possibly’ a rifle, and wearing body armor. He ditched the vehicle close to the school, went inside, and ‘started shooting children, teachers, whoever was in his way.’
Two boys – Xavier Lopez, 10, and nine-year-old Uziyah Garcia – and four girls – Makenna Elrod, 10, Amerie Jo Garcia, 10, Eliahana Torres, also 10, and Ellie, whose age and surname were not immediately available – were among those he killed. Also fatally shot were two teachers: Eva Mireles, 44, and Irma Garcia, a mother-of-four.
Cops rushed to the scene to report an armed man who had crashed a car near the school. Also on the scene were Border Patrol agents from a nearby outpost, one of whom got into a firefight with Ramos and shot him dead. An agent was wounded in the shoot-out but was able to walk himself out of the school, a local spokesman said.
A number of others were also hurt in the attack, but the exact figure remained unclear late Tuesday. Conflicting reports suggested Ramos’s grandmother was in critical condition or had died of her injuries. Desperate parents appealed on social media for news of their missing children. Police said the death toll is expected to rise.
Joe Biden, speaking at the White House where he had ordered flags to fly at half-staff in honor of the victims, kicked off the inevitable debate about gun control. Declaring himself ‘sick and tired of the cyclical discussion, he called for voters to ‘turn this pain into action to prevent more mass killings. ‘We have to act,’ he said.
‘As a nation, we have to ask, when in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God’s name will we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done,’ he said.
Ted Cruz, Republican senator for Texas, led the response – repeating well-worn arguments that ‘restricting the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens to prevent mass shootings ‘doesn’t work’. The solution, he said, is to put armed officers on school campuses. Cruz is due to speak at the NRA conference on Friday.
Children confirmed dead by family members included 10-year-olds Xavier Lopez, Eliahana Torres, Makenna Elrod, and eight-year-old Uziyah Garcia.
Another girl called Ellie Garcia was also confirmed to have died by her grieving parents.
‘My nephew was a victim of a school shooting today,’ Mitch Renfro wrote on Facebook, confirming Garcia’s death. ‘[She] was killed by a crazy man,’ he added.
The missing included Rogelio Torres and Nevaeh Bravo.
The father of 10-year-old Annabelle Guadalupe Rodriguez said that she was also still missing.
‘He shot and killed – horrifically and incomprehensibly – 14 students and killed a teacher,’ Abbott said at a press briefing. The death toll was later revised to 19 children.
‘There are families that are in mourning right now. And the state of Texas is in mourning with them.’
It was the deadliest such incident since 14 high school students and three adult staff were killed in Parkland, Florida in 2018 – and the worst at an elementary school since the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut, in which 20 children and six staff were killed.
‘The idea that an 18-year-old kid can walk into a gun store and buy two assault weapons is just wrong,’ said Joe Biden, addressing the country from the White House on Tuesday night.
‘As a nation, we have to ask: When in God’s name will we stand up to the gun lobby?’
He added: ‘Why are we willing to live with this carnage? Why do we keep on letting this happen? Where in God’s name is our backbone?’
Mireles, a fourth grade teacher, was identified by her family as being one of the staff members shot dead. She had worked in education for 17 years.
Her husband Ruben Ruiz, a veteran detective and SWAT team member currently serving as a police officer with the school district, held regular active shooter drills for the schools – most recently at the end of March.
Garcia, who co-taught with Mireles for the last five year, had been at Robb Elementary for 23 years.
Married to Joe for 24 years, she was a mother of four – Cristian, completing Marine boot camp; Jose, attending Texas State University University; Lyliana, a sophomore in high school; and Alesandra, a 7th grader.
‘My tia did not make it, she sacrificed herself protecting the kids in her classroom, i beg of you to keep my family including all of her family in y’all’s prayers , IRMA GARCIA IS HER NAME and she died a HERO,’ tweeted her nephew John.
‘She was loved by many and will truly be missed.’
She was nominated as teacher of the year for the 2018-19 awards, organized by Trinity University.
‘Let me assure you, the intruder is deceased,’ said Pete Arredondo, chief of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Department.
‘We are not looking for another individual in relation to this case.’
Ramos’s social media was full of photos of guns, which he bought legally on his 18th birthday, state senator Roland Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez said that Ramos was born in North Dakota but lived in Uvalde.
Ramos messaged a woman he knew on Instagram, tagging her in a photo of the guns.
‘You gonna repost my gun pics,’ @sal8dor_ direct messaged the girl on May 12.
‘what your guns gotta do with me,’ she replied on Friday.
‘Just wanted to tag you,’ he said back.
Then at 5:43 am on Tuesday, @salv8dor_ messaged her and said: ‘I’m about to’.
The girl asked ‘about to what’ to which he answered: ‘I’ll tell you before 11.’
He said he’d text her in an hour and urged her to respond.
‘I got a Lil secret I wanna tell u,’ he messaged with a smiley face emoji covering its mouth.
‘Be grateful I tagged you,’ he wrote.
She replied: ‘No it’s just scary,’ adding: ‘I barely know you and you tag me in a picture with some guns?’
His last message at 9:16 am on Tuesday was ‘Ima air out’.
The shooting started around 11:32 am.
The woman reacted with horror when she learned what he had done.
‘He’s a stranger I know nothing about him he decided to tag me in his gun post,’ she wrote.
‘I’m so sorry for the victims and their families I really don’t know what to say.’
She then added: ‘The only reason I responded to him was that I was afraid of him I wish I stayed awake to at least try to convince him to not commit his crime. I didn’t know.’
When an Instagram user asked if she was his girlfriend, she replied: ‘I don’t know him and I don’t even live in Texas.’
Robb Elementary School, which has 600 students enrolled, is located in the city of Uvalde, the hometown of Matthew McConaughey, 60 miles east of the Mexican border and 80 miles west of San Antonio.
A school friend of Ramos’s said that he sent him the photos of his guns too.
‘He would message me here and there, and four days ago he sent me a picture of the AR he was using … and a backpack full of 5.56 rounds, probably like seven mags,’ the friend told CNN.
‘I was like, ‘bro, why do you have this?’ and he was like, ‘Don’t worry about it.’
‘He proceeded to text me, ‘I look very different now. You wouldn’t recognize me,’ he added.
The friend said Ramos was mocked by others for the clothes he wore and his family’s financial situation, and eventually was seen less in class.
He largely dropped out and took the job at Wendy’s, where co-workers remember him as quiet.
Adrian Mendes, evening manager at the Wendy’s, said Ramos ‘kept to himself mostly.’
‘He felt like the quiet type, the one who doesn’t say much. He didn’t really socialize with the other employees,’ Mendes told CNN.
‘He just worked, got paid, and came in to get his check.’
Mendes said that he did not know Ramos well – he was already employed when Mendes began in February – and didn’t see him most of the time because they were on different shifts.
Ramos worked from 11 am to 4 pm or 5 pm, five days a week.
Photos show a pickup truck that crashed outside the school, which, according to Abbott, Ramos abandoned before entering the school.
He was involved in a gunfight with border patrol agents who arrived on the scene. One of the agents was injured but is expected to survive.
Biden, who flew home from Japan on Tuesday, addressed the nation from the Roosevelt Room of the White House at 8:45 pm. Air Force One landed just before 7 pm.
‘I had hoped, when I became president, I would not have to do this. Again. Another massacre,’ a visibly emotional Biden said.
Speaking from the White House Roosevelt Room with First Lady Jill Biden clad in black by his side, the president said: ‘Uvalde, Texas. An elementary school. Beautiful innocent, second, third, and fourth-graders. And how many scores of little children who witnessed what happened – see their friends die as if they’re on a battlefield, for God’s sake?’
He took a moment to empathize with parents who would never see their young children again after Tuesday.
‘Parents will never be the same. To lose a child, it’s like having a piece of your soul ripped away,’ said the president, who lost his son Beau Biden to brain cancer in 2015.
‘There’s a hollowness in your chest you feel like you’re being sucked into it. And never going to be able to get out. Suffocating. And it’s never quite the same. It’s the feeling shared by the siblings and the grandparents and the family members and the community that’s left behind.’
He lamented there were ‘so many crush spirits’ left to mourn the more than dozen victims.
‘So tonight, I asked the nation to pray for them. Give the parents and siblings the strength in the darkness they feel right now.’
His voice growing louder, Biden continued: ‘As a nation, we have to ask, when in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God’s name will we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?’
Biden recalled the numerous mass shootings over the last decade, including visiting Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a gunman killed 26 people including 20 children while he was vice president. He also remarked on this month’s mass shooting that killed 10 people in Buffalo, New York.
‘I am sick and tired of it. We have to act. And don’t tell me we can’t have an impact on this carnage. I spent my career as a senator and vice president working to pass common-sense gun laws,’ he said.
‘We can’t and won’t prevent every tragedy, but we know they work and have a positive impact. When we passed the assault weapons ban, mass shootings went down, when the law expired mass shootings tripled.’
He said the ability for a teenage gunman, like Salvador Ramos, to be able to ‘walk into a gun store and buy two assault weapons is just wrong.;
‘What in God’s name do you need an assault weapon for except to kill someone?’ Biden questioned.
He then accused gun makers of spending ‘two decades aggressively marketing assault weapons, which make them the most and largest profit.’
The flags above the White House are flying at half staff.
Concerned parents were captured at the scene desperately searching for their children and video from the chaotic scene showed police arriving at the school campus with their guns in hand.
One widely shared video appears to show the suspected gunman approaching the school while what sounds like gunfire is going off in the background.
‘There is an active shooter at Robb Elementary. Law enforcement is on site,’ The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District said.
Videos are taken in the immediate aftermath of the shooting show mothers frantically running toward the campus to collect their kids.
The school warned parents to stay away and instead collect their children from a rendezvous point after they had been ‘accounted for.
‘Your cooperation is needed at this time by not visiting the campus. As soon as more information is gathered it will be shared.’
The students were holding a day of celebrations, receiving certificates for the end of the school year.
Dr. Hal Harrell, superintendent of the Uvalde school district, said that classes had been canceled for the rest of the school year.
‘School will be closed,’ Harrell told a press conference on Tuesday evening.
‘The school year is done. All activities are canceled throughout the district – I know graduation is on everyone’s mind, but we will come to that later.
‘My heart was broken today.
‘We are a small community, and we will need your prayers to get through this.’
Ninety percent of the school’s students are Hispanic and there are some 70 teachers.
It is one of many schools in the district that is a stone’s throw from the Mexican border, with the city of Coahuila 220 miles away. The school sits on the outskirts of the city of Uvalde, a population of 16,000.
Don McLaughlin, mayor of Uvalde, told Fox News that shots were fired off-site and that after shooting one person, the gunman ran to the school where he barricaded himself inside.
The district said that the city’s civic center will be used as a reunification center and that parents will be able to pick up their children there once everyone is accounted for.
A mobile morgue was seen arriving at the school on Tuesday afternoon.