UVALDE, Texas (AP) – Disappointed spectators urge police to attack Texas elementary school, where gunman killed 19 children and two teachersWitnesses said Wednesday as investigators worked to locate the massacre, which lasted more than 40 minutes and ended when the 18-year-old perpetrator was killed by a Border Patrol team.
“Go in there! Go in there! ” Women nearby shouted at police immediately after the attack began, said Juan Caranza, 24, who saw the scene outside his home, opposite Rob Elementary School in the town of Ovalde. Carranza said police did not enter.
Javier Cazares, whose fourth-grade daughter Jacklyn Cazares was killed in the attack, said he ran to school when he heard about the shootings.who arrived while police were still concentrated outside the building.
Upset that the police did not enter, he came up with the idea of entering the school with several other passers-by.
“Let’s hurry because the cops are not doing anything as they are supposed to do,” he said. “More could have been done.”
“They were unprepared,” he added.
Minutes earlier, Carranza had watched as Salvador Ramos crashed his truck into a ditch outside the school, snatched the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and shot two people outside a nearby funeral home who fled. without being injured.
Officials say he “met” a school district security officer outside the school, although there were conflicting reports from authorities as to whether the men had exchanged gunfire. After running inside, he shot at two police officers who arrived in Ovalde outside the building, said Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Travis Consindin. The policemen were injured.
After entering the school, Ramos entered a classroom and started killing.
“He locked himself in the door and just started shooting at children and teachers in that classroom,” Lt. Christopher Olivarez of the Department of Public Safety told CNN. “It just shows you the absolute bad of the shooter.”
Everyone killed was in the same class, he said.
Department of Public Safety director Steve McCraw told reporters it took 40 minutes to an hour from Ramos opening fire on the school’s security guard until the regular team shot him, although a department spokesman later said that they could not give a solid estimate of how long the gunman was at school or when he was killed.
“The bottom line is that law enforcement was there,” McCraw said. “It simply came to our notice then. They contained (Ramos) in the classroom “.
Meanwhile, a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation said Border Patrol agents had trouble breaking into the classroom door and had to force 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.
Caranza said police should have entered the school earlier.
“It simply came to our notice then. “It was just one of them,” he said.
Uvalde is a predominantly Latino city of about 16,000, about 75 miles (120 km) from the Mexican border. Robb Elementary, which has nearly 600 students in the second, third and fourth grades, is a one-story brick building in a predominantly residential neighborhood with simple homes.
Hundreds gathered in the stands at the city fairground for a vigil on Wednesday and the crowd was so large, some standing around the speakers in the earthen arena. Some cried. Some closed their eyes tightly, saying a silent prayer. Parents wrap their arms around their children as speakers pray for healing.
Before attacking the school, Ramos shot and injured his grandmother in the house they shared, authorities said.
Neighbor Gilbert Gallegos, 82, who lives across the street and has known the family for decades, said he was putting it in his yard when he heard the gunshots.
Ramos ran out the front door and went through the small yard to the truck that was parked in front of the house. He looked panicked, Galegos said, and had trouble getting the truck out of the park.
Then he ran away: “He fell out, I mean fast,” spraying gravel in the air.
His grandmother appeared covered in blood: “He says, ‘Berto, that’s what he did. He shot me. ” He was hospitalized.
Gallegos, whose wife called 911, said she had not heard any arguments before or after the shootings and had no history of bullying or abuse of Ramos, whom she rarely saw.
Investigators also did not shed light on Ramos’ motive for the attack, which also left at least 17 people injured. Texas Gov. Greg 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.
“We do not see any motivation or catalyst at the moment,” said McCraw of the Department of Public Safety.
Ramos legally bought the rifle and a second similar one last week, shortly after his birthday, authorities said.
About half an hour before the mass shootings, Ramos sent the first of three online messages warning of his plans, Abbott said.
Ramos wrote that he was going to shoot his grandmother, after he shot the woman. In the last note, which was sent about 15 minutes before he arrived at Elementary Rob, he said he was going to shoot an elementary school, according to Abbott. The investigators said that Ramos did not specify which school.
Ramos sent the personal text messages one by one via Facebook, said company spokesman Andy Stone. It was not clear who received the messages.
Grief overwhelmed Uvalde as the details were revealed.
Among the dead was Eliahna Garcia, an extroverted 10-year-old who enjoyed singing, dancing and playing basketball. a fourth-grader, Xavier Javier Lopez, who was looking forward to a summer of swimming. and a teacher, Eva Mireles, whose husband is an officer in the school district police department.
“You can only tell from their angelic smiles that they loved them,” said Uvalde School Superintendent Hal Harrell, fighting back tears as he remembered the children and teachers who had been killed.
The tragedy was the latest in a seemingly endless wave of mass shootings across the US in recent years. Just 10 days earlier, 10 Blacks had been shot to death in a racist attack at a New York Buffalo Supermarket.
The attack was the deadliest school shooting in the United States since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012.
Amid calls for tougher gun restrictions, the Republican governor has repeatedly spoken out about mental health struggles among Texas youth, arguing that stricter gun laws in Chicago, New York and California are invalid.
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: “This is up to you until you choose to do something different. That’s going to continue to happen. ” O’Rourke was led out as some in his room shouted. 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 site of some of the deadliest shootings in the US for the past five years.
“I just do not know how people can sell such a weapon to an 18-year-old,” said Siria Arizmendi, the victim’s aunt Eliahna Garcia. “What will he use but for this purpose?”
President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that “the second amendment is not absolute” as he called for new arms restrictions after the massacre.
But the prospects for reform of the country’s arms regulations seemed bleak. Repeated efforts over the years to expand history checks and impose other restrictions have met with Republican opposition in Congress.
The shootings came days before the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Houston, with the Texas governor and two Republican senators scheduled to speak.
Dillon Silva, whose nephew was in a classroom, said students were watching the Disney movie “Moana” when they heard several loud bangs and a bullet shattered a window. Moments later, their teacher saw the perpetrator pass by.
“Oh my God, he has a gun!” the teacher shouted twice, according to Silva. “The teacher did not even have time to lock the door,” he said.
The cohesive community, built around a shady central square, includes many families who have lived there for generations.
Lorena Auguste was teaching alternate at Uvalde High School when she learned about the shooting and started sending frantic messages to her niece, a fourth grader at Robb Elementary. He finally found out that the girl was fine.
But that night, her niece had a question.
“Why did they do that to us?” the girl asked. “We are good guys. We did nothing wrong. “
Bleiberg reported from Dallas. Acacia Coronado, Eugene Garcia and Dario Lopez-Mills in Uvalde. Ben Fox, Michael Balsamo, Amanda Seitz and Eric Tucker in Washington. Paul J. Weber in Austin. Juan Lozano in Houston. Gene Johnson in Seattle. Stephen Groves in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. and Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.
More about school shootings in Uvalde, Texas: https://apnews.com/hub/school-shootings