At least 18 children and three adults — at least one of them a teacher — are now confirmed dead after a shooting at a Texas elementary school Tuesday, a state senator said Tuesday evening.
Sen. Roland Gutierrez said he was briefed by state police on the latest fatalities at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, a heavily Latino community about 135 kilometetres west of San Antonio.
The 18-year-old suspect is also dead, Gov. Greg Abbott confirmed earlier.
It 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, Conn., almost a decade ago. And it came just 10 days after a gunman in body armour killed 10 Black shoppers and workers at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, in what authorities say was a racist attack.
The gunman entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, with a handgun and possibly a rifle, Abbott said. Officials did not immediately reveal a motive, but the governor identified the assailant as Salvador Ramos and said he was a resident of the heavily Latino community.
A Border Patrol agent who was nearby when the shooting began rushed into the school without waiting for backup and shot and killed the gunman, who was behind a barricade, according to a law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about it.
The agent was wounded but able to walk out of the school, the law enforcement source said.
Abbott said the shooter was likely killed by police officers but that the events were still being investigated. The school district’s police chief, Pete Arredondo, said that the attacker acted alone.
The school, for students in Grades Two through Four, had just under 600 students enrolled. Arredondo did not provide ages of the children who were shot.
The school district was working to contact students’ families and provide support services, Arredondo said.
A heavy police presence surrounded the school Tuesday afternoon, with officers in heavy vests diverting traffic and FBI agents coming and going from the building.
In a statement, Abbott said he had instructed the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Rangers to work with local law enforcement to investigate the shooting.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said U.S. President Joe Biden had been briefed on the shooting on Air Force One as he returned from a five-day trip to Asia and would deliver remarks Tuesday evening at the White House.
Biden ordered U.S. flags be flown at half-mast at the White House and other public buildings “as a mark of respect for the victims,”according to a statement.
Uvalde is home to about 16,000 people and is the seat of government for Uvalde County. The town is about 120 kilometres from the border with Mexico. Robb Elementary is in a mostly residential neighbourhood of modest homes.
It was the deadliest school shooting in Texas history. It occurred four years after a gunman fatally shot 10 people at Santa Fe High School in the Houston area and less than two weeks after a gunman opened fire at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., killing 10 Black shoppers and workers in what officials have described as a hate crime.
Tuesday’s shooting came days before the annual convention of the National Rifle Association (NRA) was set to begin in Houston. Abbott and both of Texas’s U.S. senators were among elected Republican officials scheduled to speak at a Friday leadership forum sponsored by the NRA’s lobbying arm.
In the years since Sandy Hook, the gun control debate in the U.S. Congress has waxed and waned. Efforts by lawmakers to change gun policies in any significant way have consistently faced roadblocks from Republicans and the influence of outside groups such as the NRA.
One year after Sandy Hook, Sens. Joe Manchin a West Virginia Democrat, and Patrick J. Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, negotiated a bipartisan proposal to expand the nation’s background check system. But as the measure was close to being brought to the Senate floor for a vote, it became clear it would not get enough votes to clear a 60-vote filibuster hurdle.
My heart breaks for everyone affected by the horrific shooting in Texas today. I’m thinking of the parents, the families, the friends, the classmates, and the coworkers whose lives have been forever changed – Canadians are mourning with you, and are here for you.
Then-President Barack Obama, who had made gun control central to his administration’s goals after the Newtown shooting, called Congress’ failure to act “a pretty shameful day for Washington.”
Last year, the House passed two bills to expand background checks on firearms purchases. One bill would have closed a loophole for private and online sales. The other would have extended the background check review period. Both languished in the 50-50 Senate, where Democrats need at least 10 Republican votes to overcome objections from a filibuster.