Updated May 25, 2022 at 5:03 a.m. EDT|Published May 24, 2022 at 4:44 p.m. EDT
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President Biden on Tuesday evening urged Congress to end the “carnage” of gun violence after more than a dozen elementary schoolchildren were killed by an 18-year-old in Texas.
“As a nation we have to ask: When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?” Biden said in an address to the nation. “ … How many scores of little children, who witnessed what happened, see their friends die as if they’re in a battlefield, for God’s sake?”
At least 19 children and two teachers were killed after the shooting at Robb Elementary School, a Texas Department of Public Safety spokesperson said.
Salvador Rolando Ramos, an 18-year-old Uvalde resident, is also dead after opening fire at the school, officials said, apparently killed by officers at the scene. Two people familiar with the investigation said the initial evidence indicates that Ramos bought the weapons used in the attack shortly after his 18th birthday — May 16.
A 66-year-old woman and a 10-year-old girl were in critical condition after the shooting Tuesday afternoon, according to University Health. A 9- and 10-year-old were also admitted to the University Hospital in San Antonio, and two children and two adults were hospitalized at Uvalde Memorial Hospital.
Here’s what else to know
The gunman shot his grandmother before going to the school, police said. She was being treated at a hospital Tuesday night.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) suggested that the solution to school shootings is to arm teachers. Meanwhile, Sen. Chris Murphy (D) of Connecticut, the state where the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred, pleaded on the Senate floor for gun-control legislation.
Guadalupe Camacho Alvarez, 60, made sure she went to church Tuesday evening and thanked God that her granddaughter was not among the dead.
For several hours earlier that day, she did not know where the 9-year-old girl was after she received a text from a friend that something horrific was happening at Robb Elementary School.
Minutes after the shooting began, Camacho Alvarez drove to the city’s civic center about 11:45 a.m.searching for answers. It was bedlam — even those wearing law enforcement uniforms had no information to give. Mothers were sobbing. The 9-year-old’s other grandmother was outside the school, but no one could get close.
Camacho Alvarez texted her granddaughter: “Don’t be scared, baby. I love you. Just stay out of the way.”
She never answered.
It wasn’t until at least 2:45 p.m. that information started to come forth.
When a bus arrived at the civic center, parents swarmed around it. A few children trickled out, but Camacho Alvarez’s granddaughter was nowhere in sight.
The children held hands in a line as they walked off the bus, led by an adult who ushered them into the center. They cried and clamored for their mothers but stayed in formation as they had been instructed.
A second bus arrived. Still no sign of the 9-year-old.
Camacho Alvarez started to panic. Her son, the girl’s father, was out of town. He kept calling, but she ignored his calls.
“I didn't know what I was going to tell him,” she said.
Then a U.S. Customs and Border Protection van pulled up and her granddaughter got out of the vehicle.
After showing her identification to authorities to retrieve the girl, Camacho Alvarez said, “I grabbed her and hugged her really tight.”
Although her immediate relatives are safe, others in her family tree could not say the same. Her first cousin’s granddaughter was among those killed. As of late Tuesday,Camacho Alvarez’s neighbors hadn’t returned home. She hoped the tragedy is not the reason.
For now,her granddaughter doesn’t want to talk about what happened, Camacho Alvarez said.
“I think we are going to have to get her counseling or something,” she said.
Less than three hours before the shooting, many parents and grandparents had been inside the school for a 9 a.m. awards assembly. Students showed off certificates for perfect attendance and honor roll.
“Imagine if it had happened earlier,” Camacho Alvarez. “So many kids. So many kids …”
Ruben Flores, 41, who lived next to Salvador Ramos and his mother, tried to be a kind of father figure to Ramos, who had ”a pretty rough life with his mom,” he said.
Ramos grew up living with his mother and his older sister in a home on Hood Street, in what Flores called a “quiet neighborhood.” Flores and his wife, Becky Flores, would invite Ramos to barbecues at their house and for sleepovers with their son, who was a few years younger.
Ramos was a quiet child, who went by the nickname “pelon,” Spanish for bald, because his hair was often cut so short when he was younger, Flores said. But as Ramos grew older, Flores said, problems at home became more acute and more apparent to neighbors. He said his son’s friendship with Ramos fizzled about four years ago. He described seeing police at the house and witnessing blowups between Ramos and his mother.
Ramos moved from the Hood Street home to his grandmother’s home across town a few months ago, Flores said. He said he last saw the grandmother on Sunday, when she stopped by the Hood Street property, which she also owned. She told him she was in the process of evicting Ramos’s mother, Flores said.
Teacher shot in Texas school protected students, pastor says
At the hospital in Uvalde, Tex., on Tuesday, Father Jaime Paniagua from Del Rio said he met with several people who had been injured in the shooting, including a Border Patrol agent who had been grazed by a bullet, a girl who was shot in the arm and another girl whose face was bloodied from shrapnel.
“She was very talkative, describing what happened, step by step,” Paniagua said outside of Sacred Heart Catholic Church Tuesday night. “When the shooting was happening, she held another girl’s hand, and they were screaming. Their teacher protected them, and they saw the teacher get shot.”
Paniagua said with each injured child he met, he asked them how they were doing and if they wanted to pray together. For hours, he said, he listened and witnessed as people struggled to process what they’d gone through.
“I experienced powerlessness, being there for six hours,” he said. “But God is almighty.”
Asked if he received training for how to console children who had been through a mass shooting, Paniagua said, “We’ve received training on what to do if there’s an active shooter at church. But I don’t remember receiving training on active-shooting victims.”
Gunman was bullied as a child, became ‘a different person,’ friend says
Stephen Garcia learned Tuesday that his best friend from middle and early high school had shot and killed at least 19 children at their childhood elementary. But in another sense, it wasn’t the person he had known who did it.
“I lost my friend a long time ago,” said Garcia, 18.
Garcia, a senior in high school, grew up in Uvalde, Tex. Salvador Ramos was a classmate of his, but they didn’t become best friends until about eighth grade.
“He was the nicest kid, the most shyest kid. He just needed to break out of his shell. He was a person like all of us — he was like a good friend of mind that has never made me any happier,” Garcia said.
Ramos didn’t have it easy in school, he said.
“He would get bullied hard, like bullied by a lot of people,” Garcia said. “Over social media, over gaming, over everything.”
He had a strong lisp that Garcia said made him a target. One time, he posted a photo of himself wearing black eyeliner, which brought on a slew of comments using a derogatory term for a gay person.
Garcia said he tried to stand up for him. They hung out nearly every day, with Garcia’s mother often cooking up meals for the both of them and giving him rides to places after school.
“We would play games, we would go get snacks at the store, we’d drink slushies and eat Takis. We were like regular kids. … Just like two lazy kids, you know?” he said.
Garcia had met Ramos’s grandfather and worked for him repairing air conditioners for extra cash. He also knew Ramos’s grandmother, who was “the sweetest,” he said.
During Garcia’s sophomore year, his family relocated for his mother’s job. And that’s when things began to change between him and his friend.
“He just started being a different person,” Garcia said. “He kept getting worse and worse and I don’t even know.”
When Garcia left, Ramos dropped out of school. He started wearing all black, he said, and large military boots. He grew his hair out long. He looked, said Garcia at one point, “like a serial killer.”
Garcia said he might have been Ramos’s last support, and once he left, Ramos began to fall apart quickly. “I kind of made him normal and kept him normal,” he said.
Ramos completely shut off Garcia. He stopped talking to him and created distance, he said. Every once in a while, Garcia would call him to check in on him. Just a month or two ago, he called Ramos to check in.
But Ramos said he was going hunting with his uncle and didn’t have time to talk, and hung up. Garcia wondered if maybe that’s what the large guns Ramos had posted online were for — going hunting, or to the shooting range with his uncle.
Garcia was in algebra class on Tuesday when he started receiving a slew of texts with the news of what had happened in Uvalde and the word that it was Ramos. He didn’t believe it at first. He opened his phone’s browser and Googled it and saw his friend’s name.
“I couldn’t even think, I couldn’t even talk to anyone. I just walked out of class, really upset, you know, bawling my eyes out,” he said. “Because I never expected him to hurt people.”
“I think he needed mental help,” he added. “And more closure with his family. And love.”
Pastor speaks of his conversations with victims: ‘They are so brave’
On Tuesday night, every pew was full at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, where mourners held lit white candles in clear holders during a vigil. Clergy had rushed to Uvalde from across the state earlier in the day and had visited with people at the civic center, where officials were helping people reunite with their children.
The Rev. Jaime Paniagua, from Del Rio, told those gathered on Tuesday night about those visits.
“I was really impressed by the courage and strength of some of these children that prayed with us and told us their story,” he said. “We see them so small, but they are so brave.”
One girl spoke to him with blood on her face, Paniagua said. Some people he spoke with were trying to find their loved ones who had been rushed to the hospital in San Antonio. Others had just learned that they’d lost a child.
“We saw their pain — they were inconsolable. I think this is the greatest pain that a human being can experience, to lose a child, and with so much violence,” Paniagua said. “We pray for those parents and remember that there is a resurrection, there is a heaven.”
To comfort those seeking answers, Paniagua added, “God is not to blame for this. This is the result of evil and sin.”
Schumer sets up gun bills for possible Senate vote
Just hours after news of the Uvalde, Tex., tragedy broke, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) moved to put two House-passed gun-control bills on the Senate calendar for possible action.
One would establish universal background checks for commercial gun sales; the other would extend the period to perform a federal background check on a gun buyer from three to 10 days.
Schumer’s move, however, does not guarantee a Senate vote on those bills, which are opposed by Republicans and would almost certainly be filibustered. Several Democrats, including Sens. Chris Murphy (Conn.) and Jon Tester (Mont.), told reporters Tuesday evening that they preferred to try to jump-start bipartisan negotiations to find a bill that could actually pass rather than simply hold another doomed-to-fail “show vote.”
The two parties are likely to discuss among themselves how to move forward Wednesday, but Schumer now has options if Democrats choose to quickly move forward with the House bills. In any case, unless Senate leaders move to change the legislative schedule, no votes would happen until early June: The Senate is scheduled to break for a one-week recess on Thursday.
Family member of student: ‘She’s traumatized. ... She saw blood everywhere.’
Erika Escamilla, 26, said that waiting for news about her niece and two nephews who attend the elementary school was like torture.
Within a couple of hours of the shooting, though, she was able to reunite with them all. Her niece, who is 10, told Escamilla that the shooting happened in the classroom next to hers.
The young girl’s class was just coming in from recess when they heard a man cursing and yelling, and then gunshots. Their teacher pushed them into the classroom, Escamilla said, told the children to get down, turned off the air conditioning and the lights, and started to cover the windows with paper. Afterward, when they were evacuated, the girl looked into the classroom and saw the horrific scene.
“She’s traumatized. She said she felt like she was having a heart attack,” Escamilla said. “She saw blood everywhere.”
Texas Department of Public Safety Lt. Christopher Olivarez said 19 children and two adults are confirmed dead.
Sgt. Erick Estrada, with the DPS, said there were two shootings Tuesday. The first was at a residence neighbors identified as the home of the alleged shooter’s grandmother. Salvador Rolando Ramos allegedly shot the woman, and she was airlifted to San Antonio for treatment.
“He had a rifle and body armor on,” Estrada said of Ramos, who also died after the shooting.
The gunman was in a pickup that sped toward the elementary school and crashed into the barrier there at the south entrance, Estrada said. Investigators have not detailed how, but the shooter entered the building and fired at students and school personnel, he said.
Two Uvalde police officers and a school resource officer fired at the shooter, but it did not stop him from entering the building. Two officers suffered minor injuries, Estrada said.
A tactical law enforcement team was called in, then was able to find the shooter and “stop him,” a DPS officer said.
Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is expected to be in Uvalde tomorrow.
Federal and state law enforcement agencies are collecting evidence — cellphones, shell casings and firearms — across a large crime scene, and Estrada said it will take days to piece it all together.
Shooter’s behavior deteriorated in recent years, longtime friend says
Santos Valdez Jr., 18, said he has known Salvador Rolando Ramos, whom authorities identified as the gunman in the Uvalde school massacre, since early elementary school. They were friends, he said, until Ramos’s behavior began to deteriorate recently.
Ramos lived with his mother and sometimes his grandmother, Valdez said, adding that Ramos’s grandmother taught at their elementary school — a different school than the site of Tuesday’s shooting.
Ramos was bullied by other students and sometimes started fights, Valdez said. “He got bullied worse in high school.”
They used to play video games such as “Fortnite” and “Call of Duty.” But then Ramos changed, Valdez said.
Once, Ramos pulled up to a park where they often played basketball with cuts all over his face. He first said a cat had scratched his face. “Then he told me the truth, that he’d cut up his face with knives over and over and over,” Valdez said. “I was like, ‘You’re crazy, bro. Why would you do that?’”
Ramos’s response: He did it for fun, Valdez recalled.
Valdez said Ramos went driving around with another friend at night and shot random people with a BB gun. He egged people’s cars, Valdez said, and started wearing black clothes, leather and military-style boots.
About a year ago, Ramos posted photos on social media of automatic rifles that “he would have on his wish list,” Valdez said. Four days ago, he posted images of two rifles he referred to as “my gun pics.”
Ramos bought the weapon used in the attack immediately after his 18th birthday, which was May 16, according to a person briefed on the investigation’s early findings.
Valdez said his last interaction with Ramos was about two hours before the shooting, when they messaged on Instagram’s “stories” feature.
Valdez had shared a meme that said “WHY TF IS SCHOOL STILL OPEN.” According to a screenshot of their exchange, Ramos responded: “Facts” and “That’s good tho right?”
Valdez responded “Idek [I don’t even know] I don’t even go to school lmao.”
Ramos never responded to or opened that text message, Valdez said.
Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut who once held a 15-hour filibuster on the Senate floor on the need for stricter gun laws in the United States, returned there Tuesday night to plead with his colleagues to find a way to put politics aside and work together to stop the carnage of mass shootings.
Murphy was in the House in 2012 when a shooting took place in his district, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, where 20 6- and 7-year-old children and six adults were killed. Now, a decade later, another gunman had entered an elementary school and taken the lives of 18 young children and at least one adult in Uvalde, Tex.
“What are we doing?” Murphy said, his voice raised. “Why are we here if not to try and make sure fewer schools and few communities go through what Sandy Hook has gone through, what Uvalde is going through. … I am here on this floor to beg, to literally get down on my hands and knees and beg my colleagues: Find a path forward here. Work with us to find a way to pass laws that make this less likely.”
Biden urges lawmakers to ‘stand up to the gun lobby’ and pass ‘common-sense’ gun laws
President Biden called for tougher gun legislation on Tuesday, urging lawmakers to “stand up to the gun lobby” and pass “common-sense” gun laws.
“What in God’s name do you need an assault weapon for except to kill someone?” he asked.
Biden, who then-President Barack Obama tapped to be his point person on guns after the Sandy Hook shooting, noted that he just returned from Asia, where mass shootings do not occur with the same frequency.
“Why are we willing to live with this carnage?” he said. “Why do we keep letting this happen? Where in God’s name is our backbone?”
Without naming any names — or even any political party — Biden said that “we will not forget” those who obstruct or delay gun-control legislation.
“We can do so much more,” he said. “We have to do more.”
He ended, again, on a more personal and empathetic note.
“Our prayer tonight is those parents, lying in bed and trying to figure out, will I be able to sleep again?” he said. “What do I say to my other children? What happens tomorrow?”
“May God bless the loss of innocent life on this sad day,” Biden concluded.
Biden addresses nation: ‘I had hoped when I became president I would not have to do this — again’
President Biden addressed the nation almost immediately after touching down from his trip to Asia, and he began by referencing the nation’s recent history of mass shootings, including high-profile school shootings like Sandy Hook.
“I had hoped when I became president I would not have to do this — again,” Biden said, as his wife, Jill, stood next to him, clad in black.
He started on a personal note, talking about the “parents who will never see their child again, never have them jump in bed and cuddle with them, parents who will never be the same.”
Biden, who has buried two of his children, spoke from personal experience.
“To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away. There’s a hollowness in your chest,” he said. “You feel like being sucked into it.”
Police block off street, enter shooter’s grandmother’s house, neighbor says
Richard Luna, 54, who lives a few doors down from Ramos’s grandmother on Diaz Street, said the neighborhood had been turned into a crime scene Tuesday. Neighbors gathered on their porches in shock on Tuesday evening, he said, as police blocked off the street from traffic and went in and out of the grandmother’s home.
Luna said he knew Ramos’s grandmother as “Sally” and would say hello to her occasionally but did not know her well. He did not recall seeing Ramos in the neighborhood, and he said he did not think the teenager lived there.
“I never saw him,” he said.
Luna was not at home when the incident that drew police to Diaz Street occurred, he said. Like many other children in the neighborhood, Luna’s grandson attended Robb Elementary. Luna said his grandson, a third-grader, was pulled out of school early before Tuesday’s shooting.
“They had awards at the school today, so we got him out early,” he said. “Thank God.”
Local hospitals say they received at least 18 injured victims
Uvalde Memorial Hospital received 11 children and three adults via ambulances and a school bus, hospital CEO Tom Nordwick told The Washington Post.
Two children, a boy and a girl, arrived at the hospital dead. Five children have since been transferred to other hospitals for treatment, one was admitted and another may be transferred. Four children were discharged. Of the three adults, one was transferred and two remain.
Nordwick said he did not know of the conditions or ages of the patients.
His hospital has not seen anything like this before, he said.
“It’s not like stuff happens like this every day,” he said. “I never would have thought something like this would have happened in our community.”
University Health in San Antonio has four patients, spokeswoman Elizabeth Allen said. A 66-year-old woman and a 10-year-old girl are in critical condition. One 10-year-old girl is in good condition. One 9-year-old is in fair condition.