All 19 kids and two teachers killed in the massacre at Texas’ Robb Elementary School were in a single fourth-grade classroom where the shooter had barricaded himself for an hour as cops tried to break through a steel door and smash windows to free students, officials said.
Tuesday’s horrific incident began when Salvador Ramos, an unemployed and increasingly aggressive 18-year-old who had recently dropped out of high school, shot his grandmother in the face, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday.
The grandma, with whom he lived in a modest bungalow in Uvalde decorated with a religious cross and a Christmas wreath, called the cops as Ramos fled in her truck. He later crashed in a ditch near Robb Elementary, a school of about 600 mostly Latino students who were just two days away from summer vacation, according to school records.
Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Lt. Chris Olivarez said Wednesday that someone called 911 to report seeing the crash and an armed man running towards the school. At least one armed cop from the Uvalde school district confronted Ramos and exchanged gunfire but Ramos was able to get past him, according to a preliminary report described to The New York Times by a state police official.
Ramos, who was wearing a tactical-style vest and carrying an AR-15 and large amounts of ammunition, kept running onto school grounds, entering through a back door and then crossing two short hallways, eventually reaching veteran teacher Irma Garcia’s fourth-grade classroom, which internally connects to another classroom, Abbott said.
Two Uvalde Police officers tried to engage with Ramos but he shot them both, leaving them with non-life-threatening injuries, officials said. Ramos then barricaded himself inside the classroom and began firing at children and teachers with “no regard for human life,” forcing the local cops to call for tactical units, Olivarez said.
“At that point [the officers] began breaking windows around the school, trying to evacuate children, teachers, anybody they could, trying to get them out of that building, out of that school,” he said.
While officials could not give a detailed timeline, Texas DPS director Steven McCraw said at a Wednesday briefing that Ramos was inside the school for about an hour before a tactical unit officer breached the classroom and killed him.
Among the tactical officers who responded were members of the Border Patrol’s elite Bortac team but they couldn’t get into the room because of a steel door and cinder block construction, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing officials familiar with the investigation. The gunman was also firing at them through the door and walls.
Officers were eventually able to get into the room using a master key from the principal, WSJ reported. Ramos fired at them, hitting one officer who sustained minor injuries. Another officer sustained shrapnel wounds.
A third Border Patrol officer was the one who finally shot Ramos, allowing officers to realize the true horror left behind: the bodies of 19 children and two fourth-grade teachers.
Ramos had posted three Facebook messages in the 30 minutes leading up to the shooting, Abbott said. The first said, “I’m going to shoot my grandmother,” the second said, “I shot my grandmother,” and the third, posted 15 minutes before the massacre, said, “I’m going to shoot an elementary school.”
According to online accounts from victims’ parents, the carnage unfolded in the classroom of Mrs. Irma Garcia, who has taught at Robb Elementary for 23 years and is a mother of four. Jennifer Lugo, whose daughter Ellie Garcia was killed, posted online that the class was held “hostage.” Garcia’s family confirmed she died along with her students.
“She sacrificed herself protecting the kids in her classroom,” her family wrote in a GoFundMe, describing her as “sweet, kind, loving. Fun with the greatest personality.”
My sweet mommy , I will miss you forever. 🤍🕊 pic.twitter.com/SIxKrgX6Xi
— Adalynn ✞💛 (@addy_celeste) May 25, 2022
Among the young fourth-grade victims was “super-outgoing” Amerie Jo Garza, a “teacher’s pet” who died while trying to dial 911, her grandmother, Berlinda Irene Arreola, told The Daily Beast.
Just that morning, she had beamed for a picture as she held up a colorful school certificate naming her to the honor roll at Robb Elementary School.
Robb Elementary teacher Karla King told The Daily Beast the entire school is utterly devastated by their unfathomable loss.
“We’re all in a real sad time right now and I cannot express to you how sad everyone is at this time,” she said, adding, “I’m still grieving.”
—with additional reporting by Noah Kirsch