Texas saw its deadliest school shooting in modern state history Tuesday as details begin to emerge after a gunman killed at least 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
During a news conference, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott identified the assailant as Salvador Ramos, 18, and said he was a resident of the heavily Latino community about 85 miles west of San Antonio. The governor said Ramos walked into Robb Elementary School in Uvalde around 11:30 a.m. Central time and opened fire.
USA TODAY has decided not to show an image of the suspect but is providing general details about the alleged shooter to inform how mass attacks are often planned and carried out, particularly with respect to how weapons and targets are selected. These details give authorities and the public information that could help citizens spot future mass shooters and even prevent them.
Tuesday’s massacre was the deadliest shooting at a U.S. grade school since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, almost a decade ago. The Texas shooting comes just 10 days after a gunman in body armor killed 10 Black shoppers and workers at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, in what authorities say was a racist attack.
Here’s what we know about Tuesday’s deadly shooting:
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Gunman ‘reported to have been a student’ at local high school
The attacker was “reported to have been a student” at Uvalde High School, Abbott said at the news conference Tuesday.
The high school, part of the same school district as Robb Elementary where the shooting took place, enrolls about 1,100 students, according to the school district. 91% of students in the district are Hispanic, and almost 80% are economically disadvantaged, the district said.
Uvalde is home to about 16,000 people, about 85 miles west of San Antonio and 75 miles from the Mexican border. About 82% of the city’s population is Latino, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Abbott said the gunman was a Uvalde local and a U.S. citizen.
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How were the weapons obtained?
The gunman allegedly legally purchased two assault rifles at a local gun store, Democratic Texas State Senator Roland Gutierrez told USA TODAY.
“It was the first thing he did when he turned 18,” he said on CNN, citing a briefing from Texas Rangers.
The two rifles were purchased on two separate dates, May 17 and May 20, and one was found in the gunman’s truck while the other was in the school, according to a briefing state Sen. John Whitmire said he received.
The gunman also purchased 375 rounds of 5.56 ammunition, and what appears to be seven 30-round magazines were inside the school, according to Whitmire. A backpack with several magazines of ammunition near the entrance of the school was also found, according to Whitmire.
Abbott said earlier in the day that the shooter had a handgun and possibly a rifle.
The shooter was wearing a plate carrier but not ballistic armor, according to Whitmire. Earlier reports said he was wearing body armor.
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Officials say the gunman acted alone
Ramos allegedly crashed into a ditch near the school before the shooting, Texas Department of Public Safety Sergeant Erick Estrada said Tuesday evening on CNN. He was confronted by law enforcement when he tried to enter the school with a rifle, Estrada said, but was able to enter through the south door of the building.
Police were not pursuing the gunman before he crashed, and the first information law enforcement received about the incident was a caller reporting the crash and a man exiting the vehicle with a gun, according to Whitmire.
Lt. Christopher Olivarez of the Texas Department of Public Safety told CNN all the children and teachers who died were inside a single classroom where the shooter barricaded himself.
A U.S. Border Protection agent, one of several responding to the scene, shot and killed the gunman, a senior Department of Homeland Security official told USA TODAY. The agent was shot in the foot or lower leg when confronting the gunman, and was treated a local hospital for his injuries, the DHS official said.
The school district’s police chief, Pete Arredondo, said the gunman acted alone.
The gunman also shot his grandmother before going to the school, Gutierrez told USA TODAY. The woman, according to Gutierrez, was being treated for her injuries while being transported to a hospital in San Antonio.
Motive remains unclear
Officials have not revealed a motive for the shooting.
Gutierrez told USA TODAY he was unaware that the gunman had been known to law enforcement prior to the attack.
“This is a quiet, beautiful community made up of hardworking people,” Gutierrez said, referring to the small town on the edge of the Texas Hill Country. “This is a tragedy.”
Gunman hinted the attack could be coming on social media before the attack
Law enforcement officials are combing through an Instagram account that appears to belong to the gunman.
Gutierrez, who said he had been briefed by state police, said the gunman posted on social media before the attack and hinted it could be coming. He said the gunman “suggested the kids should watch out,” and that he had bought two “assault weapons.”
A series of posts appeared in the days before the shooting including photos of the gunman, a gun magazine and two AR-style semi-automatic rifles.
An Instagram user with more than 10,000 followers was tagged in one of the posts. She shared parts of what appears to be a chilling exchange with the shooter asking her to share his gun pictures.
“I barely know you and u tag me in a picture with some guns,” she responded, adding, “It’s just scary.”
Before the shooting began Tuesday morning, she received a response sent from Ramos’s account that said: “I’m about to.”
The account linked to both users have been removed. Instagram did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Associated Press.
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Contributing: Trevor Hughes, Chris Kenning, Kevin McCoy, Josh Meyer and Sarah Eames, USA TODAY; Tony Plohetski, Austin American-Statesman; Eric Ferkenhoff, USA TODAY Network; The Associated Press