Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that the Uvalde gunman “was the sheer face of evil itself,” yet managed to keep his twisted intentions under wraps until moments before the monstrous massacre of innocent schoolchildren.
Salvador Ramos, 18, had no criminal or mental health history. In the half-hour leading up to Tuesday’s attack, however, he sent three private Facebook messages, paraphrased as “I’m going to shoot my grandmother,” “I shot my grandmother,” and “I’m going to shoot an elementary school.”
He sent the last message about 15 minutes before driving his 66-year-old grandmother’s truck to Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, where he used an AR-15 to fatally shoot at least 19 children and two teachers in a fourth-grade classroom.
“Evil swept across Uvalde yesterday,” Mr. Abbott said at a Uvalde High School press conference with state officials and Texas’ two U.S. senators. “Anyone who shoots his grandmother in the face has to have evil in his heart. But it is far more evil for someone to gun down little kids.”
The gunman was fatally shot at the school by an agent with the Customs and Border Protection’s elite tactical unit that breached the barricaded classroom. The agent’s name has not been released.
Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, confirmed that Ramos was responsible for the attack and expressed frustration with the absence of warning signs. The Texas Rangers are leading the investigation in conjunction with the federal and state agencies.
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“We have yet to find a clue, whether it’s social media or other indicators that might have given us any type of idea that he was about to do something like this and give us an opportunity to prevent it,” Mr. McCraw said.
The horrific attack, the deadliest school shooting since the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, prompted Mr. Abbott and other state officials to bring in more mental health resources, particularly in rural areas and small towns like Uvalde, which has 16,000 residents.
“I asked the sheriff and others an open-ended question and got the same answer from the sheriff as well as from the mayor of Uvalde.
The question was, ‘What is the problem here?’” Mr. Abbott said. “They were straightforward and emphatic. They said, ‘We have a problem with mental health.’”
Democrats doubled down on calls for tougher gun control laws.
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the state’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate, interrupted the press conference by calling the tragedy “totally predictable” and blaming Mr. Abbott for “doing nothing.” State and local officials pushed back.
“You are out of line and an embarrassment,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said. Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin called Mr. O’Rourke a “sick son of a b——, coming to a deal like this to make a political issue.”
Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone told reporters that the private messages sent to another user were “discovered after the terrible tragedy” and that the company is cooperating with the investigation.
Although the gunman had no history of mental illness, there were indications that trouble was afoot.
He dropped out of high school during the COVID-19 pandemic and “pulled back to himself,” said Mr. McLaughlin, citing discussions with students and parents who knew the shooter.
He legally purchased a semi-automatic rifle at a local sporting goods store on May 17, shortly after his birthday. He returned the next day for 375 rounds of ammunition and came back on May 20 to buy another rifle.
There was also trouble at home, where Ramos had been living with his grandmother since March. He moved out of his mother’s house after she disconnected his Wi-Fi, said Juan Alvarez, who is in a relationship with the mother.
“He was kind of a weird one. I never got along with him. I never socialized with him. He doesn’t talk to nobody,” Mr. Alvarez told CBS News. “When you try to talk to him, he’d just sit there and walk away.”
A neighbor told Newsy reporter John Mone that Ramos and his grandmother argued shortly before he shot her because he was upset that he failed to graduate.
The neighbor “said the suspect was angry he did not graduate,” Mr. Mone said in a Tuesday night report. “He got into an argument with the grandmother, and she was screaming, ‘He shot me, he shot me,’ and then got in the car.”
The grandmother was able to call police and run to a neighbor across the street to seek help. She was transported to a hospital in San Antonio and was listed in critical condition.
Ramos drove less than two blocks to the school, crashed the vehicle, and exited with a backpack and an AR-15-style rifle. As he approached the west side of the school toward the back door, he was engaged by a school resource officer, but no shots were exchanged, Mr. McCraw said.
The gunman dropped a backpack of ammunition during the confrontation but managed to enter the school through the back door, go down a hallway and enter a classroom through an adjoining classroom.
“That’s where the carnage began,” Mr. McCraw said.
Uvalde police were chasing Ramos after the crash outside the school grounds and his grandmother’s call. A team of police, deputies and Border Patrol agents kept him pinned down while they formed a tactical team to breach the classroom.
“They breached the classroom door, they went in, they engaged Ramos and killed him at the scene,” Mr. McCraw said.
Seventeen people, including three officers, were injured in the shooting, but they remained in good condition. One deputy lost a child in the massacre, and another officer’s wife was killed.
The police, deputies and Border Patrol agents drew praise for their rapid response. Without them, Mr. Abbott said, the tragedy “could have been much worse.”
“They showed amazing courage by running toward gunfire for the singular purpose of trying to save lives, and it is a fact that because of their quick response getting on the scene, being able to respond to the gunman and eliminate the gunman, they were able to save lives,” the governor said. “Unfortunately, not enough.”
Mr. Abbott defended his record on combating mass shootings. He noted that he signed 17 bills after the deadly 2018 Santa Fe High School shooting designed to harden schools and deter attacks.
Mr. Patrick suggested that eliminating back entrances in smaller schools would improve security.
“If he had taken three more minutes to find an open door, police were there pretty quickly,” said Mr. Patrick, adding that “this school district has been doing a really good job in trying to protect their students.”
President Biden called for “action” on tightening firearms laws. Mr. Abbott said the record of strict gun control measures in high-crime areas such as Chicago, New York and Los Angeles shows that such measures fall short.
“We need to realize that people who think that, ‘Well, maybe if we just implement tougher gun laws, it’s going to solve it,’ Chicago and Los Angeles and New York disprove that thesis,” Mr. Abbott said. “If you’re looking for a real solution, Chicago teaches that what you’re talking about is not a real solution. Our job is to come up with real solutions that we can implement.”