Texas school shooter displayed concerning behavior before attack
Salvador Ramos appeared to be spiraling.
In the weeks before the 18-year-old left a Texas classroom littered with bodies in one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history, Ramos stopped showing up at his high school, lost his job, began posting troubling images to social media and started to collect weapons, according to interviews, published reports and law enforcement documents reviewed by The Times.
Eduardo Trinidad, whose son attended Uvalde High School with Ramos, said the young man had minimal contact with other people his age and often dressed entirely in black. In a moment that now seems like grim foreshadowing, Trinidad said he’d warned his son to avoid Ramos.
“As I told my son, those are the kids you need to be careful around, because you never know,” Trinidad said.
The gunman posted his intentions on Facebook before shooting his grandmother, going to the elementary school and barricading himself in a classroom.
One week before Ramos shot 19 elementary school children and two teachers to death, he legally purchased an AR-15 rifle, according to a summary of a law enforcement briefings reviewed by The Times. He bought 375 rounds of ammunition for the rifle the next day, and purchased a second AR-15 two days after that, according to the summary.
Under Texas law, there is no waiting period between buying a firearm and picking it up, nor is there a waiting period between firearms purchases. Weapons do not have to be registered. Rifles and shotguns can be purchased by anyone once they turn 18, though Ramos would have been subject to a background check at the time of purchase.
Ramos bought the weapons shortly after his 18th birthday, satisfying a long-held fascination with firearms, a friend of Ramos told the Washington Post. About a year ago, Ramos had posted pictures to Instagram of rifles “he would have on his wish list,” according to the report.
Other images archived from Ramos’ now-deleted social media profiles show the teen dressed in all dark clothing with his face twisted into a frown, framed by long, dark hair.
Ramos had a falling-out with his mother, according to published reports, and had moved in with his grandparents earlier this year.
He’d stopped showing up to his job at a Wendy’s restaurant about two weeks before the shooting, according to an employee who declined to give their name Wednesday. The employee also described Ramos as a “loner” and said the youth was virtually friendless.
Trinidad said Ramos was upset that he was not going to graduate from Uvalde High School this year. A school district spokesperson was not immediately able to discuss Ramos’ enrollment status.
At least 18 children and two adults were killed at a Texas elementary school on Tuesday, joining the grim list of the deadliest campus incidents ever.
Ramos’ frustrations with school started after he was bullied over a speech impediment, a cousin told the Post. He also sometimes drove around shooting at people with a BB gun, according to the newspaper.
Despite Ramos’ concerning and antisocial behavior, Texas officials said there was no sign Ramos had been planning to carry out Tuesday’s massacre. In a series of private Facebook messages sent less than 30 minutes before the attack, Ramos said he had shot his grandmother and was going to open fire at an elementary school, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said.
Ramos’ grandmother, 66-year-old Celia M. Gonzales, suffered a gunshot wound to the face and was still undergoing surgery Wednesday, according to her husband, Rolando Reyes. In a brief interview with The Times, Rolando Reyes said he and his grandson would speak daily and that the teen had shown no signs that he was in turmoil.
“I didn’t know about any guns,” Reyes said as he walked past police tape to his car on Diaz Street in Uvalde.
“I’m so sorry. I feel terrible for those who lost children,” he continued. “They were innocent.”
Ramos’ grandmother had worked at Robb Elementary School, leaving in 2020, but law enforcement officials have not said whether he targeted the school because of her prior employment there.
Abbott said Ramos had “no history of mental health care” or criminal record.
Hennessy-Fiske reported from Uvalde, Texas. Winton and Queally reported from Los Angeles.
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