Texas saw its deadliest school shooting in modern state history Tuesday as details begin to emerge after an alleged gunman reportedly killed at least 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
During a news conference, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott identified the assailant as Salvador Ramos, 18, and said he was a resident of the heavily Latino community about 85 miles west of San Antonio. The governor said Ramos walked into Robb Elementary School in Uvalde around 11:30 a.m. Central time and opened fire.
USA TODAY has decided not to show an image of the suspect but is providing general details about the alleged shooter to inform how mass attacks are often planned and carried out, particularly with respect to how weapons and targets are selected. These details give authorities and the public information that could help citizens spot future mass shooters and even prevent them.
Tuesday’s massacre was the deadliest shooting at a U.S. grade-school since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, almost a decade ago. The Texas shooting comes just 10 days after a gunman in body armor killed 10 Black shoppers and workers at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, in what authorities say was a racist attack.
Here’s what we know about Tuesday’s deadly shooting:
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Alleged gunman ‘reported to have been a student’ at local high school
The alleged attacker was “reported to have been a student” at Uvalde High School, Abbott said at the news conference Tuesday.
The high school, part of the same school district as Robb Elementary where the shooting took place, enrolls about 1,100 students, according to the school district. 91% of students in the district are Hispanic, and almost 80% are economically disadvantaged, the district said.
Uvalde is home to about 16,000 people, about 85 miles west of San Antonio and 75 miles from the Mexican border. About 82% of the city’s population is Latino, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Abbott said the alleged gunman was a Uvalde local and a U.S. citizen.
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How were the weapons obtained?
The gunman allegedly legally purchased two assault rifles at a local gun store on his 18th birthday, Democratic Texas State Senator Roland Gutierrez told USA TODAY.
“It was the first thing he did when he turned 18,” he said on CNN, citing a briefing from Texas Rangers.
Abbott said earlier in the day that the shooter had a handgun and possibly a rifle.
Texas Department of Public Safety Sergeant Erick Estrada told CNN said on Tuesday that the gunman had a long rifle and a backpack, and was wearing body armor.
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Motive remains unclear. Officials say the gunman acted alone
Officials have not revealed a motive for the shooting, but the alleged gunman acted alone, said the school district’s police chief, Pete Arredondo.
Ramos allegedly crashed into a ditch near the school before the shooting, Texas Department of Public Safety Sergeant Erick Estrada said Tuesday evening on CNN. He was confronted by law enforcement when he tried to enter the school with a rifle, Estrada, said but was able to enter through the south door of the building where he went to several classrooms and began shooting.
Abbott said the suspect was likely killed by police officers, but that the events were still being investigated Tuesday afternoon.
Gutierrez told USA TODAY he was unaware that the alleged gunman had been known to law enforcement prior to the attack.
“This is a quiet, beautiful community made up of hard-working people,” Gutierrez said, referring to the small town on the edge of the Texas Hill Country. “This is a tragedy.”
The gunman also allegedly shot his grandmother before going to the school, Gutierrez told USA TODAY. The woman, according to Gutierrez, was being treated for her injuries while being transported to a hospital in San Antonio.
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Contributing: N’dea Yancey-Bragg, Trevor Hughes and Chris Kenning, Trevor Hughes Kevin McCoy and Sarah Eames, USA TODAY; The Associated Press