By ACACIA CORONADO and JIM VERTUNO
UVALDE, Texas (AP) – An 18-year-old gunman opened fire on a Texas elementary school on Tuesday, killing at least 19 children as he went from classroom to classroom, authorities said, in the deadliest school shooting in nearly a decade. last dreadful moment for a country marked by a series of massacres. The attacker was killed by law enforcement.
The death toll also included two adults, authorities said. Gov. Greg Abbott said one of the two was a teacher.
The robbery at Robb Elementary School in the heavily Latin city of Uvalde was the deadliest shooting at a U.S. elementary school since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012.
Hours after the attack, families were still waiting for the news of their children.
Outside the city’s civic center, where families were told to gather, silence was repeatedly broken by screams and lamentations. “No! Please don’t!” shouted one man as he hugged another.
“My heart is broken today,” said Hal Harrell, the school district’s superintendent, announcing that all school activities have been canceled for the time being. “We are a small community and we will need your prayers to overcome this.”
The attack also occurred just 10 days after a racist and deadly riot at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, which added to a series of mass murders for a few years in churches, schools and stores. And the prospects for any reform of the nation’s gun regulations seemed as weak, if not less so, than after the Sandy Hook deaths.
But President Joe Biden seemed ready for a fight, calling for new gun restrictions on an address to the country hours after the attack.
“As a nation we have to ask ourselves, when in the name of God are we going to face the gun lobby? When in the name of God are we going to do what needs to be done?” Biden asked. “Why are we willing to live with this carnage?”
Many of the injured were rushed to Uvalde Memorial Hospital, where staff members in the bush and relatives of the devastated victims could be seen crying as they left the complex.
Officers did not immediately reveal the motive, but identified the assailant as Salvador Ramos, a resident of the community about 85 miles (135 kilometers) west of San Antonio. Law enforcement officials said he acted alone.
Ramos had hinted on social media that an attack could arrive, according to state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who said he was informed by state police. He noted that the gunman “suggested that children should be careful.”
Before going to school, Ramon killed his grandmother with two military-style rifles he bought on his birthday, Gutierrez said.
“That was the first thing he did on his 18th birthday,” he said.
The attack began about 11:30 a.m. when the gunman crashed his car outside the school and crashed into the building, according to Travis Considine, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety. A neighbor who overheard the accident called 911, and two Local Police officers exchanged shots with the shooter.
The two officers were shot, although it was not immediately clear where on campus that confrontation took place or how long it took before more authorities arrived at the scene.
Meanwhile, teams of Border Patrol agents rushed to the school, including 10 to 15 members of a SWAT-type tactical and counterterrorism unit, said Jason Owens, a senior regional Border Patrol official.
A Border Patrol officer working nearby when the shooting began rushed to the school without waiting for a backup and shot and killed the gunman, who was behind a barricade, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not he was allowed to talk about it.
The officer was injured but was able to leave the school, according to the police source.
Owens confirmed that one officer suffered minor injuries, but did not provide details of that confrontation.
He said some area agents have children in Robb Elementary.
“We have Border Patrol children going to this school. It’s home for everyone,” he said.
It was not immediately clear how many people were injured, but Uvalde police chief Pete Arredondo said there were “several injured”. Earlier, Uvalde Memorial Hospital said 13 children were taken there. Another hospital reported that a 66-year-old woman was in critical condition.
Robb Elementary School has an enrollment of just under 600 students, and Arredondo said it caters to second-, third-, and fourth-year students. He did not provide the ages of the children who were shot. This was the last week of school classes before the summer break.
Uvalde, home to about 16,000 people, is about 75 miles (120 kilometers) from the Mexican border. Robb Elementary is in a mostly residential neighborhood of modest homes.
The Uvalde tragedy was the deadliest school shooting in Texas history, and added to a gloomy count in the state, which has been the site of some of the deadliest shootings in the United States in five years.
In 2018, a gunman shot 10 people at Santa Fe High School in the Houston area. A year earlier, a gunman in a Texas church had killed more than two dozen people during a Sunday service in the small town of Sutherland Springs. In 2019, another gunman at a Walmart in El Paso killed 23 people in a racist attack.
The shooting occurred days before the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Houston began. Abbott and the two U.S. senators from Texas were among the elected Republican officials who were the scheduled speakers at a Friday-led leadership forum sponsored by the NRA lobby arm.
In the years since Sandy Hook, the arms control debate in Congress has increased and decreased. Legislators ’efforts to significantly change U.S. weapons policy have consistently faced obstacles from Republicans and the influence of outside groups such as the NRA.
A year after Sandy Hook, West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Republican Patrick J. Toomey negotiated a bipartisan proposal to expand the country’s background check system. But the measure failed in a Senate vote, without enough support to overcome a 60-vote obstruction obstacle.
Then-President Barack Obama, who made gun control central to his administration’s goals after the Newtown shooting, described the failure of Congress as “a rather embarrassing day for Washington.”
Last year, the House passed two bills to expand background checks on the purchase of firearms. An invoice would close a gap for private and online sales. The other would have extended the background review period. Both languished in the 50-50 Senate, where Democrats need at least 10 Republican votes to overcome the objections of an obstructionism.
Eugene Garcia and Dario Lopez-Mills in Uvalde, Jake Bleiberg in Dallas, Ben Fox in Washington, Paul J. Weber in Austin, Juan Lozano in Houston, and Gene Johnson in Seattle all contributed to this report.
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