19 children, 2 adults killed in Texas in the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook
Police are believed to have killed the gunman, who left 19 children and two adults dead at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. (William Luther/The San Antonio Express-News via AP)
A gunman walked into a school here Tuesday and killed at least 21 people, including 19 children, in another mass shooting in an America that daily buries victims of gun violence amid divisive political debates over 2nd Amendment rights and the gaze of disbelief from the outside world.
The killings in this predominately Latino city were, as happens so often, the work of a lone man who took unsuspecting lives in a barrage of gunfire. Officials say Salvador Ramos, 18, carrying a rifle, entered Robb Elementary School in the working-class city of about 16,000 people approximately 80 miles west of San Antonio.
“He shot and killed — horrifically, incomprehensibly,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said.
A Border Patrol agent who works as part of a tactical team near the school, which is about 50 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, fired the shots that killed the gunman, according to a law enforcement source.
Another source said investigators were not sure whether the school was the gunman’s intended target or whether it became one after he crashed his vehicle nearby. A federal law enforcement official said Ramos may have perceived it as the softest target where he could create the greatest carnage.
Pete Arredondo, police chief for the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, said Tuesday afternoon that investigators believed “the suspect did act alone during this heinous crime.”
The gunman who killed 19 children and two teachers at a Texas elementary school barricaded himself inside a fourth-grade classroom, officials say.
“Let me assure you, the intruder is deceased and we are not actively looking for another individual or any other suspects in this case,” Arredondo said.
Ramos shot and wounded his grandmother, got into his SUV and then crashed it into a ditch before arriving at the elementary school, according to a law enforcement source. Clad in all black and reportedly wearing body armor, the gunman was captured on a security camera with at least one weapon visible as he approached the school. Police gave no motive for the shooting.
The attack was the deadliest mass shooting at a U.S. elementary school since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults in the 2012 Sandy Hook school attack in Newtown, Conn. It was another reminder that few places in the nation are safe these days — not even a building where children bring lunches, learn grammar and don’t yet understand that they could be gone in an instant.
One of the victims in Uvalde was Eva Mireles, a fourth-grade teacher who had worked for the school district for about 17 years. Her husband, Ruben Ruiz, is a police officer in the school district. He was one of several officers who responded to the shooting and were apparently shot at by the shooter, but was not injured.
Mireles’ aunt, Lydia Martinez Delgado, said in a message to The Times that she was furious to lose her niece in such a “tragic” and “senseless” way. The U.S., she said, needed to act on gun laws and expand background checks.
“It’s so easy for young, mental kids to get guns and randomly shoot innocent victims,” she said. “My niece, Eva, lost her life protecting her students. It shouldn’t have to be like this: teachers, parents and students afraid to go to school or send their kids to school.”
President Biden sounded the same theme on Tuesday evening. In an address to the nation from the White House, he declared it was “time to act.”
The gunman posted his intentions on Facebook before shooting his grandmother, going to the elementary school and barricading himself in a classroom.
“Why are we willing to live with this carnage?” he asked. “Where in God’s name is our backbone?”
It was the second time in less than two weeks that the president has delivered remarks about a deadly mass shooting. On May 14, a gunman opened fire at a grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y., killing 10 people.
“As a nation, we have to ask, when in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?” Biden added. “When in God’s name are we going to do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?”
In Uvalde, parents and other family members gathered at the Sgt. Willie de Leon Civic Center, many in tears and with red eyes, to learn whether their loved ones were safe.
Inside, officials took DNA samples from parents and promised to confirm whether their children were among the dead. Around 9:30 p.m., officials ushered many back inside. Shortly after, some adults emerged back outside, wailing, sobbing and hugging one another.
Zeke Luevanos, 43, an electrical lineman, drove several hours from Odessa, Texas, to join his brother and sister, who each had a 9-year-old child still missing. He had just seen his niece and nephew last weekend at a memorial in Uvalde for his father, who died last week.
“They’re not doing too good,” he said of his siblings, who had already provided DNA samples.
Lisa Cazares, 25, came to the civic center after her calls to area hospitals failed to locate a friend’s 11-year-old daughter. Cazares said her friend texted to say the girl’s class was attacked.
A gunman killed 19 children and two adults at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, about 80 miles west of San Antonio, on May 24, 2022.
“She’s terrified,” Cazares said of her friend. Cazares was joined by her own 4-year-old daughter and husband, whose cousins’ children were also still missing.
“There’s been too many of these shootings at schools. All the teachers should be able to carry, at least in a locked drawer,” she said. Her husband said the schools needed more police.
“This is just a very sad time for them,” Uvalde County Commissioner Ronald Garza said of the families who waited for information. “They’re scared. They’re kind of in a state of shock.”
Garza asked the public to pray for Uvalde and “for peace, for understanding.”
Thursday afternoon, Sergio Garcia mourned the death of his son, 10-year-old Uziyah Garcia, as he waited for news about retrieving his body. Garcia described his son as a loving and gentle boy who loved karaoke and the video game Fortnite.
“He was my world. He was my everything,” Garcia said. “Now I’m never going to get to hold him again. Never going to get to kiss him again.”
“Everybody’s heartbroken and stunned,” said Uvalde County Commissioner John Yeackle.
“It’s a small town, so no one is going to be unaffected,” he added. “There won’t be anybody that doesn’t know — either directly or indirectly — either family or friends that are going to be affected by this.”
At least two officers were struck by the gunfire and one was wounded, according to a law enforcement source.
North Park Elementary School in San Bernardino was closed on Tuesday, the day after a man walked into a special education classroom and killed his wife, an 8-year-old student and then himself.
Uvalde Memorial Hospital received 17 injured children via ambulance or school bus, two of them dead on arrival, according to hospital Chief Executive Tom Nordwick. He said the hospital also treated a man in his 40s who had suffered minor injuries in the shooting.
“He just said, ‘Treat the kids,’” Nordwick said Tuesday afternoon, adding that 12 children were still being treated in the ER. He couldn’t say what their conditions were.
Two children were transported to a hospital in San Antonio, and another was awaiting transport, hospital officials said Tuesday afternoon.
University Hospital in San Antonio said in a statement that a 66-year-old woman and a 10-year-old girl at the hospital were in critical condition. Another 10-year-old girl, the hospital said, was in good condition.
Earlier Tuesday, the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District had said that all schools in the district were in lockdown due to gunshots in the area.
The school district instructed parents of children at the elementary school, which has an enrollment of just under 600 students, to stay away from the school and gather at the Uvalde civic center for “reunification.”
“Please do not pick up students at this time,” a message on the district website said. “Students need to be accounted for before they are released to your care.”
No action in Congress despite repeated mass shootings.
“Texans across the state are grieving for the victims of this senseless crime and for the community of Uvalde,” Abbott said in a statement.
“Cecilia and I mourn this horrific loss,” he added, referring to his wife. “And we urge all Texans to come together to show our unwavering support to all who are suffering.”
Abbott, who is scheduled to address the National Rifle Assn.’s annual meeting in Houston later this week along with former President Trump, said he had instructed the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Rangers to work with local law enforcement to investigate the shooting.
In what is now tradition in the aftermath of an American mass shooting, the politics of gun control swiftly came into play.
Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said the victims were “taken at the hands of an individual who should have never had a weapon in the first place.”
“Tragedies like this will continue to leave Texas families grieving and traumatized until our state starts prioritizing our families, our safety, and our future,” he said in a statement. “Today, we grieve and renew our demand for meaningful action now to end gun violence. Texas families can’t wait any longer.”
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit that advocates for gun control, the first half of the 2021-22 school year was the deadliest in recent history. There have been at least 77 incidents of gunfire on school grounds across the country, resulting in 14 deaths and 45 injuries, so far this year. Six of these incidents took place in Texas.
“We are heartbroken for everyone impacted by this senseless act of violence in a predominantly Latinx community,” Rena Estala, a volunteer with the Texas chapter of Students Demand Action, said in a statement.
“School is the last place where kids should have to worry about gun violence,” she added. “We need leaders at every level to prioritize gun safety now.”
But for some in Uvalde, it was too soon for political sparring.
“In our opinion, this is not going to be the time to talk about gun policy,” said Yeackle, the Uvalde County commissioner. “There’ll be plenty of time for that after. Right now, feelings are so raw.”
Hennessy-Fiske reported from Uvalde, Jarvie from Atlanta and Winton and Martinez from Los Angeles. Times staff writers Hayley Smith in Los Angeles and Courtney Subramanian in Washington contributed to this report.
Start your day right
Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.