UVALDE – The horrific scope of a school shooting that killed 19 elementary school students and two teachers came into focus on Wednesday as officials provided new details of the attack, including that the shooter barricaded himself in a fourth grade classroom where most of the victims died.
As authorities struggle to piece together what happened, grieving residents have tried to come to terms with the unimaginable loss and comfort their friends and neighbors. In Uvalde, a South Texas town of 16,000, almost everyone knew of a family affected by the bloodshed, either directly or indirectly.
“To say the least, Uvalde was deeply shaken,” said Governor Greg Abbott, who held back tears during a press conference at Uvalde High School. “Families are broken. Hearts are forever broken and all Texans are grieving with the people of Uvalde.”
Abbott said 17 other people were injured and the relatives of each victim were notified of their deaths. Family members on social media have identified some of the students and the two teachers.
Confirmed deaths include fourth grade teachers Eva Mireles, 44, and Irma Garcia. Also confirmed are students Uziyah Garcia, 8; Xavier Javier López, 10 years old; Eliahana Cruz Torres; Jose Flores, 10 years old; and Jailah Silguero, 10.
Abbott said authorities did not identify any advance warning that the man was planning to engage in a shooting. He also had no documented mental health history or adult criminal history, although he said it was possible he had a juvenile criminal record.
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According to investigators, a week before the attack, the 18-year-old shooter legally purchased two AR-15 rifles from an authorized dealer – one on May 17 and the other on May 20. In the meantime, he purchased nearly 400 rounds of ammunition, investigators said during a briefing with state officials, including state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, who provided those details to the American Statesman.
Abbott, who has focused on mental health issues while saying little about the state’s liberal gun laws, said the ability for a man so young to buy a gun was the law. of Texas for 60 years. His comments sparked an extraordinary scene when Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Beto O’Rourke rushed the stage to demand reform of the state’s gun laws and told Abbott: ” It’s your fault.”
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Abbott offered new details about the shooting on Wednesday and said the gunman posted three times on Facebook in the 30 minutes before he entered Robb Elementary, detailing his plans and posting updates on his planned attack.
Abbott said the shooter shared on Facebook that he planned to shoot his grandmother, then provided a later update confirming he had shot her. He shares the same address as his grandmother. Grandma called 911.
Then the shooter wrote that he planned to shoot an elementary school.
Abbott said Wednesday that the remarks were posted publicly on Facebook, but a spokesperson for the social media website’s parent company, Meta, disputed that characterization of the posts.
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“The messages described by Governor Abbott were private text messages that were discovered after the terrible tragedy,” Meta spokesman Andy Stone said in a statement. “We are cooperating closely with law enforcement in their ongoing investigation.”
After shooting his grandmother, Abbott said Ramos fled in his truck and crashed near the school. School district police then engaged with Ramos, but he was able to enter the school through a back door. He then entered a classroom and began shooting the children inside with an AR-15 rifle, the only weapon he used in the attack.
Most of the deaths have occurred in that classroom, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Travis Considine said.
Other officers arrived and worked to evacuate other students and teachers, Considine said. At that point, a Border Patrol tactical officer arrived, learned the shooter’s whereabouts, shot him, and killed him.
Investigators were still looking for a motive on Wednesday.
‘Too much for any heart to bear’
As of Wednesday morning, the city showed all the signs of a community locked in tragedy. Hours before the names of the victims began circulating on social media, news began to spread across the city.
In an effort to console the bereaved, the local morgue, Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home, announced on Facebook that it would be offering services at no cost.
The civic center – the polling station for Tuesday’s runoff election – was quickly transformed into a bereavement counseling center for school workers and townspeople to gather and console each other . Residents could be seen hugging and crying outside as the city’s fire marshal helped shield them from onlookers and the media.
Rebecca Funk came to the center to try to find the teachers who helped save her son’s life. On Tuesday, she was at work at HEB when her sister-in-law called to alert her to the shooting. She said she became physically ill and “I couldn’t even hear a police car or an ambulance without thinking, ‘Is that my son?'”
She was then reunited at the civic center with her son, William, a 10-year-old fourth grader at Robb Elementary. He walked out of school unscathed.
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“I just pray that they can find some peace at some point,” she said of the parents whose children were killed.
Marina Lena Garcia, who moved to Uvalde from Houston in 1989, was at HEB when she heard of a possible school shooting. Unable to believe the news, she walked about half a mile and saw the aftermath of the bloodshed.
“There is nothing that can be said in my opinion to comfort the people of Uvalde,” she said. “I always say that the children of Uvalde belong to everyone. And when a child gets hurt, everyone suffers. We all hurt.
Tracey Coberdale, who has lived in Uvalde for three years to be closer to her brother, stood outside a Walgreens on East Main Street near her SUV. She had just gone inside to buy a marker to write “Uvalde Strong” on her rear windshield.
“I have children and grandchildren, and I can’t imagine the pain these people are going through,” she said. “We know some people. … They are babies. And these are the teachers.
“We can get over it,” she said. “We are a small community, but we are a strong community.”
At the scene of the shooting, mourners brought flowers to lay on campus, which school officials closed, canceling remaining classes for the school year. A woman brought 19 silver star-shaped balloons and gave them to several state troopers, asking them to place them at the crime scene.
Others traveled from other parts of the state to do what they could to try to support the community.
They included Jena Bissaillon of Houston, who arrived after driving nearly five hours early Wednesday.
“I felt called in the middle of the night by God to come here, to help comfort people as much as I can,” she said. ” I have no words. It’s just too much – too much for any heart to bear. Only God can help us through this.
Writer Madlin Mekelburg contributed to this report.