Texas law enforcement provides details on Uvalde school shooting, but many questions remain

Editor’s note: Texas Department of Public Safety officials released updated and additional details about the Uvalde mass shooting after this story was published. You can read this updated information here.

Heads of state and law enforcement officials laid out a broad but gruesome sequence of events on Wednesday into the actions of the gunman who killed 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde a day earlier. Authorities also said 17 other people were injured in the rampage.

[Authorities took an hour to stop Uvalde gunman, raising questions about law enforcement response]

But many questions remained after a tense press conference on Wednesday which addressed the circumstances leading up to the shooter’s attack.

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About 30 minutes before entering Robb Elementary School, the 18-year-old shooter shared messages via Facebook that he was going to shoot his grandmother, Gov. Greg Abbott told reporters. He then shot her in the face, confirming this in a Facebook post, Abbott said.

Shortly after, he posted on Facebook that he planned to shoot an elementary school, Abbott said. But Facebook’s parent company Meta, quickly clarified the messages described by Abbott were “private text messages that were discovered after the terrible tragedy”, not public messages.

“We are cooperating closely with law enforcement in their ongoing investigation,” Meta spokesman Andy Stone said.

[“We are in mourning”: As parents awaited news, Uvalde residents processed their shock and grief]

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After shooting her grandmother, the shooter fled in her truck as she called police, Abbott said. He crashed near the school, about two minutes from his grandmother’s house.

Texas Department of Public Safety officials have given conflicting accounts as to whether the shooter met with law enforcement before entering the school. Initially, DPS Director Steven McCraw said at Wednesday’s press conference that the shooter approached a back door of the school and was confronted by a school resource officer who “took him off.” had hired at that time” but “the subject was able to enter the school”. .” From statements by the DPS on Wednesday, it was unclear whether a school officer and the shooter had exchanged gunfire.

But at a follow-up news conference on Thursday, DPS officials said the shooter did not meet an officer before entering the school.

“He went down a hallway, turned right and then left, and there were two adjoining classrooms,” McCraw said Wednesday. “And that’s where the carnage began.”

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The 19 children and two teachers killed were in the same classroom, a state law enforcement official said Wednesday morning.

The gunman barricaded himself in a classroom and “began shooting anyone in his path,” said Lt. Chris Olivarez, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, during the incident. an appearance on “The Today Show”.

The shooter was “able to enter a classroom, barricaded himself inside that classroom, and…began to shoot numerous children and teachers who were in that classroom, with no regard for the human life,” Olivarez said.

A fourth-grade boy hid under a table with four others during the attack, according to an article by Kens5.

“When he came in he said, ‘It’s time to die,'” the boy recalled.

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Law enforcement officers arriving at the scene could hear gunfire inside the classroom, Olivarez said. Officers attempted to enter the school, but the shooter fired on them, hitting some of the officers, Olivarez said. At that time, officers “started breaking windows around the school” in an attempt to evacuate children, teachers and staff, he said.

Officers were eventually able to force their way into the classroom and kill the shooter, who was wearing a tactical vest, Olivarez said.

A U.S. Border Patrol agent killed the shooter, Abbott said.

San Antonio University Hospital admitted four patients from Uvalde, three children ages 9 and 10 and a 66-year-old woman. The woman and a 10-year-old girl are in serious condition while two girls, 9 and 10, are in good condition, the hospital system tweeted Wednesday morning.

“The reality is as horrible as what happened, it could have been worse,” Abbott said.

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Investigators “do not see a motive or catalyst at this time” for the shooting, McCraw said.

More details about the shooter have been revealed. The shooter is said to have dropped out of high school, Abbott said, and had no known criminal history.

Ariana Diaz, a senior at Uvalde High School and one of the shooter’s former classmates, described him as a “popular loner” – someone everyone knew and had friends, but always kept for him.

He was bullied for his speech impediment, Diaz said, and sometimes bullied others.

The shooter missed a lot of school before the pandemic, Diaz said. The teacher of a leadership class they were in together in second grade often harangued the shooter for his absences, Diaz recalled.

“I feel like right now we’re all too shocked to even think about why he could have done that,” Diaz said. “We are still in mourning and it is hard to know that he was one of our classmates at the time and did this to so many innocent children.”

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Neither Facebook nor authorities said Wednesday who the shooter was messaging, but CNN reported that the shooter had messaged a 15-year-old girl he met online, telling her he was “coming to shoot my grandmother in the head” and that he planned to “shoot her”. ” a primary school.

On Monday, the shooter told the 15-year-old girl, who lives in Germany, that he had procured a packet of ammunition. When she asked him how he intended to use the ammunition, the shooter said it was a surprise and he was “just waiting,” CNN reported.

The Uvalde shooter legally purchased two rifles along with 375 rounds of ammunition just after his 18th birthday earlier this month, according to a briefing from Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston and chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, received Tuesday evening from state authorities. . One of the rifles was left in the truck, according to the briefing.

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Emotions ran high as the small South Texas town reeled in tragedy and loss. At Wednesday’s press conference, Beto O’Rourke, Abbott’s Democratic opponent in the November election, dramatically confronted the governor, shouting, “It’s on you.”

[Top Texas Republicans resist gun control and push for more armed teachers and police at schools in wake of Uvalde shooting]

O’Rourke had asked Abbott on Tuesday night to scrap his scheduled appearance at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting in Houston this week and tell the gun advocacy group to move the rally outside of Texas. Abbott said Wednesday he was unsure if he would attend the meeting.

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“As far as future plans, listen, I’m living moment to moment right now,” he said when asked about the convention at the press conference.

In the wake of the shooting, President Joe Biden called for gun legislation, an ambition that has little expectation among Democrats on Capitol Hill after Republicans blocked most major efforts to combat it. mass shootings over the past 10 years. Biden said Wednesday afternoon that he plans to travel to Texas “in the next few days.”

Abbott, meanwhile, has focused much of his solutions on bolstering mental health services, noting that resources are scarce in the area around Uvalde.

Texas invests relatively little in mental health services. A recent Mental Health America report ranked the state last in the nation for access.

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“We as a state, we as a society, need to do a better job of mental health,” Abbott said.

He added that anyone who commits such a heinous crime has some sort of mental health issue. But he also acknowledged that authorities had so far found few signs of illness before the shooting.

“There is no known mental health history of the shooter,” he said.

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