UPDATED throughout with new details: Nineteen fourth-grade students and two of their teachers were killed Tuesday in a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, west of San Antonio. All of the child victims were in a single classroom.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said at a news conference Wednesday that 17 others were wounded — including three officers and the gunman’s grandmother, who was shot in the face before the school attack — but their injuries are not life-threatening.
The 18-year-old gunman, a high school dropout with no criminal or known mental-health history, was shot dead by officers and acted alone, Abbott said.
The shooter — whom Abbott identified but Deadline will not — had written several text messages to an online acquaintance within a half-hour of the attack. One read, referring to his grandmother, “Ima do something to her rn [right now].” Another read, “I just shot my grandma in her head.” Five minutes later, which Abbott said was about 10 minutes before the rampage, the shooter wrote, “Ima go shoot up an elementary school rn.”
Abbott told reporters that the shooter — whom he identified but Deadline will not — crashed and abandoned his grandmother’s truck after shooting her and entered the school with an AR-15 rifle, which he had bought legally days after his 18th birthday last week. The gunman was a Uvalde resident and U.S. citizen who dropped out of a nearby high school, where he often was bullied, according to multiple reports.
“Before coming out here,” Abbott told reporters Wednesday, “we had a long discussion with law enforcement at all levels, community leaders [and] elected officials. I asked the sheriff and others an open-ended questions, and got the same answer from the sheriff as well as the mayor of Uvalde. The question was, ‘What is the problem here?’ And they were straightforward and emphatic: They said, We have problem with mental health illness in this community.”
Beto O’Rourke, the Democrat from El Paso who ran against incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018, interrupted Wednesday’s news conference, pointing at the officials onstage — including Cruz — and saying, “This was totally predictable.”
On Tuesday, Abbott said: “What happened in Uvalde is a horrific tragedy that cannot be tolerated in the state of Texas. … When parents drop their kids off at school, they have every expectation to know that they’ll be able to pick their child up when that school day ends. There are families that are in mourning right now.”
He added: “Our job is multi-fold: First, to make sure we address exactly what happened at this crime scene, and second, to make sure we take that information and do everything that is necessary to ensure that crime scenes like this are not going to be repeated in the future. And then we’re going to be able to ensure the safety and security of our school.”
President Joe Biden, who had just returned from his trip to Asia, ordered flags on all federal buildings lowered to half staff through Saturday. He addressed the nation Tuesday night and said Wednesday that he and First Lady Jill Biden will visit Uvalde “in the coming days.”
Vice President Kamala Harris addressed the tragedy late this afternoon. “Enough is enough,” she said. “Enough is enough. As a nation, we have to have the courage to take action and understand the nexus between what makes for reasonable and sensible public policy to ensure something like this never happens again.”
On the floor of the Senate, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said, “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.
“There is a place that we can achieve agreement, that may not guarantee that America never ever against sees a mass shootings, that may not overnight cut in half the number of murders that occur in America, that will not solve the problem of American violence by itself,” he added. “But by doing something we at least stop sending this quiet message of endorsement to these killers whose brains are breaking, who see the highest levels of government doing nothing, shooting after shooting.”
Broadcast and cable news outlets went to blanket coverage of the horrific crime at Robb Elementary, which is about 85 miles west of San Antonio and has an enrollment of about 600 students spanning Grades 2-4 — for roughly ages 7-10.
The shooting came 10 days after a gunman killed 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo, NY. It is the 212th U.S. mass shooting — defined as four or more people hit — so far in 2022, which is in Day 144.