A gunman killed at least 18 children and a teacher Tuesday at a rural Texas elementary school, officials said, resulting in the deadliest shooting at an elementary school in America after a massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School ten years ago.
The killings took place shortly before lunch at Robb Elementary School, where students in grades 2-4 of Uwalde, a small town west of San Antonio, were preparing for summer vacation this week.
An armed man, identified by authorities as an 18-year-old boy studying at a nearby high school, also died at the scene, officials said.
“He shot and killed terribly, it’s unclear,” Governor Greg Abbott told a news conference.
As frightened parents in Uwalde awaited reports on their children’s safety on Tuesday, and law enforcement officials rushed together to find out how the massacre took place, the mass shooting resumed national political debates over gun laws and gun proliferation. Ten days ago an armed man 10 people were fatally shot inside the Buffalo grocery store.
“It’s just evil,” Ray Chapa, a resident of Uwalde, said of Tuesday’s killings using swear words. Mr Chapa said his nephew was at the school when the shooting occurred but was safe. He waited for the answer of relatives and friends about the conditions of other children, scrolling Facebook for updates. “I’m afraid I’ll know a lot of these kids who were killed.”
Ryan Ramirez said KSAT in San Antonio that he was unable to find his daughter, a fourth-grader at Robb Elementary School, when he showed up at the school or at the reunion site at the community center. “Nobody tells me anything,” he said, adding, “I’m trying to find out where my baby is.”
President Biden, returning from a foreign trip, called Mr. Abbott of Air Force One, and a White House spokeswoman said the president had offered the governor “any help” “after the horrific shooting in Uwald.” Mr Biden was expected to address the shooting after returning to the White House late Tuesday.
“Enough,” Vice President Kamala Harris said during the event in Washington. “As a nation, we must have the courage to take action.”
The shooting took place on election day in Texas, when voters across the state headed to polling stations for the primary, which would pave the way for the November election at a time when the state and nation were torn by political divisions over race and immigration. and abortion.
As the death toll became known, events at Rob Elementary School immediately evoked harrowing memories of the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Kansas, which killed six employees and 20 children, some as young as 6 years old.
To many the severity of the tragedy seemed to be exacerbated by her arrival so soon after the deadly massacre of black shoppers at a grocery store in Buffalo, in one of the deadliest racist murders in recent American history. It was the deadliest shooting in the United States this year before the Uwalde massacre on Tuesday.
Mr Abbott said the shooter was a resident of the same county where the shooting took place, that he was in high school and acted alone. He entered elementary school with a gun and possibly a rifle, the governor said.
It was not immediately clear whether the shooting took place in one class or in several, and officials did not name or age the slain students or teachers.
Officials were investigating whether the gunman, whom they identified as Salvador Ramos, was targeted by the school, or whether he happened to be there by accident, according to a law enforcement spokesman who asked for anonymity to describe the investigation, which he warned was still ongoing. According to the official, at least two law enforcement officers were injured in the shooting, and they were not serious.
Shortly before the massacre, a 66-year-old woman was taken by helicopter to a San Antonio hospital with gunshot wounds. The official said the woman appears to have been the grandmother of the gunman, although their connection and the nature of the shooting are yet to be determined.
The shooting took place immediately after 11:30 p.m. Most of the day, when the information was told, the district parents ordered to stay away from the school. “Please do not pick up students at this time,” parents in the school district were instructed to send them to the local community center. “Students need to be considered before they are assigned to you.”
Parents and relatives were looking for any information, as the news of the shooting at the school turned into an awareness that so many children had died.
Even before much became known about the gunman, his motives or details about the weapons he used, the massacre put forward the debate on gun control and rights to the Second Amendment again at the forefront of national attention.
Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat and supporter of gun control legislation, said: “I think everyone here will be shocked to the core.” He added: “I have no idea how the community treats this. There is no way to do it well. Your community will never be the same after that. ”
The National Rifle Association is scheduled to hold its annual meeting in Houston on Friday. Mr. Abbott is on the list of prominent Republicans to appear alongside former President Donald J. Trump and Senator Ted Cruz.
“Today is a dark day,” Mr Cruz said in a statement. In messages posted on Twitter, he said the nation “saw too many of these shootings,” but he did not immediately call for any specific policy proposals to help prevent mass killings.
Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a Democrat whose efforts to legislate research into arms purchases were blocked in 2013, said: “It makes no sense why we can’t do things of common sense and try to prevent some of them from is happening. “
Robb Elementary, a brick school building near downtown, serves more than 500 students, mostly ages 7 to 10. About 90 percent of the students are Hispanic, according to district figures, and almost all the rest are white. On the sign hanging from the school, it says “Welcome!” and “Welcome!” next to the heart school logo.
In the neighborhood around the school, more than 40 percent of residents have lived in the same house for at least 30 years, according to census data. And more than a quarter of Uwalde’s more than 15,000 residents are children, well above the national average. More than a third live at a level just above the federal poverty line.
Joaquin Castro, US Representative in Texas, described by Uwalde on Twitter as a “wonderful, cohesive community”.
The report contributed Mike Baker, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Emily Cochrane, Jesse Fortin, Robert Gebeloff, Jesus Jimenez, Alice Lukpat, Edward Medina and Sarah Mervosh.