By ACACIA CORONADO, JIM VERTUNO and ELLIOT SPAGAT
UVALDE, Texas (AP) — Bystanders urged police to charge into the Texas elementary school where a gunman’s rampage killed 19 children and two teachers, witnesses said Wednesday, as investigators worked to follow the massacre which lasted more than 40 minutes and ended when the 18-year-old gunman was killed by a Border Patrol team.
” Go for it ! Go for it ! nearby women yelled at officers shortly after the attack began, said Juan Carranza, 24, who saw the scene from outside his home across from Robb Elementary School in the city of ‘Uvalde. Carranza said officers did not enter.
Javier Cazares, whose fourth grade daughter, Jacklyn Cazares, was killed in the attack, said he rushed to school when he heard about the shooting, arriving as police were still massed outside the building.
Upset that the police wouldn’t move in, he raised the idea of charging into the school with several other passers-by.
“Let’s go fast because the cops aren’t doing anything like they’re supposed to,” he said. “More could have been done.”
“They weren’t prepared,” he added.
Minutes earlier, Carranza had seen Ramos crash his truck into a ditch outside the school, grab his AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle and shoot two people outside a nearby funeral home. who escapes unscathed.
He then exchanged gunfire with a school district security officer, ran inside and shot two police officers arriving from Uvalde who were outside the building, the spokesman said. Texas Department of Public Safety, Travis Considine. All law enforcement officers were injured, he said.
Hours later, Considine said authorities were unsure whether the school officer had exchanged gunfire with Ramos. Law enforcement officials have also released sometimes conflicting statements about how long Ramos’ rampage lasted.
After entering the school, Ramos charged into a classroom and began killing, a law enforcement official said.
He “barricaded himself by locking the door and just started shooting the kids and the teachers who were inside that classroom,” Department of Public Safety Lt. Christopher Olivarez told CNN. . “It just shows you the utter evil of the shooter.”
All those who were killed were in the same classroom, he said.
Department of Public Safety director Steve McCraw said “about 40 minutes” elapsed between the time Ramos opened fire on the school security guard and the time the security team SWAT-like border patrol shot him.
A law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation said Border Patrol agents had difficulty opening the door to the classroom and had to ask a staff member to open the room with a key. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation.
Carranza felt that the officers should have entered the school earlier.
“There were more, there was only one,” he said.
Uvalde is a predominantly Latino town of some 16,000 people about 120 kilometers from the Mexican border. Robb Elementary, with nearly 600 students in second, third, and fourth grades, is a one-story brick structure in a mostly residential neighborhood of modest homes.
Before attacking the school, Ramos shot and injured his grandmother in her home. Neighbors called police when she staggered outside and saw she had been shot in the face, Considine said.
Ramos had legally purchased the rifle and a second similar one last week, just after his birthday, authorities said.
Investigators shed no light on the motive for the attack, which also injured at least 17 people. Abbott said Ramos, a resident of the small town about 85 miles (135 kilometers) west of San Antonio, had no known criminal or mental health history.
“Evil swept through Uvalde yesterday,” Abbott said.
About half an hour before the mass shooting, Ramos sent the first of three messages online, Abbott said. Ramos wrote that he was going to shoot his grandmother, then he shot the woman. In the final note, sent about 15 minutes before reaching Robb Elementary, he said he was going to shoot an elementary school, according to Abbott. Investigators said Ramos did not specify which school.
Ramos sent the private text messages through Facebook, and they were “discovered after the terrible tragedy”, company spokesman Andy Stone said. He said Facebook is cooperating with investigators.
Grief engulfed Uvalde as details emerged of the latest mass murder to rock the United States
Among the dead were Eliahna Garcia, an outgoing 10-year-old who loved to sing, dance and play basketball; fellow fourth grader Xavier Javier Lopez, who was looking forward to a summer of swimming; and a teacher, Eva Mireles, with 17 years of experience whose husband is an officer with the school district police department.
“You can just tell by their angelic smiles that they were loved,” Uvalde Schools Superintendent Hal Harrell said, fighting back tears as he remembered the children and teachers killed.
Amid calls in the United States for tougher gun restrictions, the Republican governor has repeatedly spoken out about mental health issues among Texas youth and argued that tougher gun laws fire in Chicago, New York and California are ineffective.
Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who is running against Abbott for governor, interrupted Wednesday’s press conference, calling the tragedy “predictable.” Pointing his finger at Abbott, he said: “It’s up to you until you choose to do something different. It will continue to happen. O’Rourke was escorted away as some in the room shouted at him. Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin shouted that O’Rourke was a “sick son of a bitch”.
Texas has some of the most gun-friendly laws in the country and has been the scene of some of the deadliest shootings in the United States in the past five years.
“I just don’t know how people can sell this type of weapon to an 18-year-old child,” said Siria Arizmendi, victim Eliahna Garcia’s aunt, angrily through tears. “What is he going to use it for if not for this purpose?”
The attack was the deadliest school shooting in the United States since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012.
The Uvalde tragedy was the latest in a seemingly endless wave of mass shootings across the United States in recent years. Just 10 days earlier, 10 black people were gunned down in a racist attack at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.
President Joe Biden said Wednesday that “the Second Amendment is not absolute” as he called for new gun limitations in the wake of the massacre.
But the prospects for reforming national gun regulations looked bleak. Repeated attempts over the years to expand background checks and enact other restrictions have been met with Republican opposition in Congress.
The shooting took place days before the start of the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Houston, with the governor of Texas and the state’s two Republican U.S. senators scheduled to speak.
Investigators do not yet know why Ramos targeted the school, said McCraw of the Department of Public Safety.
“We don’t see a pattern or a catalyst right now,” he said.
Officers found one of the rifles in Ramos’ truck, the other in the school, according to the briefing given to lawmakers. Ramos wore a tactical vest, but there were no reinforced armor plates inside, lawmakers said. He also dropped a backpack containing several magazines full of ammunition near the entrance to the school.
Dillon Silva, whose nephew was in a classroom, said students were watching the Disney movie “Moana” when they heard several loud noises and a bullet shattered a window. Moments later, their teacher saw the attacker walk through the door.
“Oh, my God, he has a gun! the professor shouted twice, according to Silva. “The teacher didn’t even have time to lock the door,” he said.
Three children and an adult remained in a hospital in San Antonio, where two of them – a 66-year-old woman and a 10-year-old girl – were listed in serious condition.
The tight-knit community, built around a shaded central plaza, includes many families who have lived there for generations. It sits amidst fields of cabbage, onions, carrots and other vegetables.
Residents are bound by family and friendship, said Joe Ruiz, a pastor born and raised in Uvalde with children and grandchildren there.
“Everyone knows everyone or is connected to everyone,” Ruiz said.
His cousin’s wife, he said, was one of the teachers killed in the attack.
Eugene Garcia and Dario Lopez-Mills at Uvalde; Jake Bleiberg in Dallas; Ben Fox, Michael Balsamo, Amanda Seitz and Eric Tucker in Washington; Paul J. Weber in Austin; Juan Lozano in Houston; Gene Johnson in Seattle and Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.
Read more about the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas: https://apnews.com/hub/school-shootings