School shooting in Uvalde, Texas: Eyewitnesses urged police to enter the Texas school after the shooting began, witnesses say

UVALDE, Texas — Frustrated bystanders prompted police officers to storm into the Texas elementary school where a gunman’s rampage killed 19 children and two teachers, witnesses said Wednesday as investigators worked to track down the massacre, which lasted more than 40 minutes and ended when the 18-year-old gunman was killed by a border patrol team.

“Get in there! Get in there!” Women nearby shouted at officers shortly after the attack began, said Juan Carranza, 24, who saw the scene from outside his home across the street from Robb Elementary School in the closely linked town of Uvalde. Carranza said officers did not go inside.

Javier Cazares, whose fourth-grade daughter Jacklyn Cazares was killed in the attack, said he rushed to school when he heard about the shooting and arrived while police were still gathered outside the building.

Angered that the police didn’t show up, he brought up the idea of ​​storming into the school with several other bystanders.

“Let’s just rush in because the cops aren’t doing anything they’re supposed to,” he said. “More could have been done.”

“They were caught off guard,” he added.

RELATED: At least 19 children and 2 adults dead at shooting range at Texas school

Minutes earlier, Carranza had watched Salvador Ramos crash his truck into a ditch in front of the school, grab his AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle and fire at two people outside a nearby funeral home, who ran away unharmed.

Officials say he “encountered” a school district security guard outside the school, although there have been conflicting reports from authorities as to whether the men fired shots. After running inside, he shot two oncoming Uvalde police officers who were outside the building, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Travis Considine said. The police officers were injured.

After entering the school, Ramos burst into a classroom and began killing.

He “barricaded himself by locking the door and just started shooting at kids and teachers who were in that classroom,” Lt. Christopher Olivarez from the Department of Public Safety told CNN. “It just shows you the complete evil of Sagittarius.”

All those killed were in the same classroom, he said.

Department of Public Safety director Steve McCraw told reporters that it was 40 minutes to an hour since Ramos opened fire on school security officers before the tactical team fired on him, although a department spokesman later said, that they couldn’t give a solid estimate of how long the shooter was at school or when he was killed.

“The bottom line was that law enforcement was there,” McCraw said. “They got involved straight away. They kept (Ramos) in the classroom.”

School shooting in Uvalde: what we know about 19 children and 2 teachers killed

Meanwhile, a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation said border guards had trouble breaking down the classroom door and had to get an employee to open the room with a key. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation.

Carranza said officers should have entered the school earlier.

“There were more of them. There was only one of him,” he said.

Uvalde is a mostly Latin American city of around 16,000 people about 120 kilometers from the Mexican border. Robb Elementary, which has nearly 600 students in second, third, and fourth grades, is a one-story brick building in a mostly modest residential neighborhood.

Before the attack on the school, Ramos shot and injured his grandmother in their home, authorities said.

Neighbor Gilbert Gallegos, 82, who lives across the street and has known the family for decades, said he was pottering in his yard when he heard the shots.

Ramos ran out the front door and across the small yard to the truck parked in front of the house. He seemed to be panicking, Gallegos said, and was struggling to get the truck out of the park.

Then he sped away: “He turned, I mean fast,” sprayed gravel into the air.

His grandmother appeared covered in blood: “She says: ‘Berto, that’s what he did. He shot me.'” She was hospitalized.

Gallegos, whose wife called 911, said he heard no altercations before or after the shooting and knew of no history of bullying or abuse of Ramos, which he rarely saw.

Investigators were also unable to clarify Ramos’ motive for the attack, in which at least 17 people were injured. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Ramos, a resident of the small town about 135 kilometers west of San Antonio, has no known criminal or mental health history.

“We see no motive or catalyst at this time,” said McCraw of the Department of Public Safety.

Ramos legally bought the rifle and a second similar one last week, just after his birthday, authorities said.

About half an hour before the mass shooting, Ramos sent the first of three online messages warning of his plans, Abbott said.

Ramos wrote that he wanted to shoot his grandmother, then he shot the woman. In the final note, sent about 15 minutes before reaching Robb Elementary School, he said he was going to shoot an elementary school, according to Abbott. Investigators said Ramos did not specify which school.

Ramos sent the private one-to-one text messages through Facebook, company spokesman Andy Stone said. It was unclear who received the messages.

RELATED: Beto O’Rourke confronts Texas governor. at Uvalde Shooting press conference

Sadness gripped Uvalde as the details emerged.

The dead included Eliahna Garcia, an outgoing 10-year-old who enjoyed singing, dancing, and playing basketball; a fellow fourth-grader, Xavier Javier Lopez, who had been eagerly awaiting a summer swim; and a teacher, Eva Mireles, whose husband is an officer with the school district police department.

“You can tell by their angelic smiles that they were loved,” said Hal Harrell, superintendent at Uvalde School, fighting back tears as he remembered the children and teachers who were killed.

The tragedy was the latest in a seemingly never-ending wave of mass shootings in the United States in recent years. Just 10 days earlier, 10 black people were shot dead in a racist attack on a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.

The attack was the deadliest school shooting in the United States since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012.

Amid calls for tighter firearm restrictions, the Republican governor has repeatedly spoken out about mental health issues among young people in Texas, arguing that tougher gun laws in Chicago, New York and California are ineffective.

Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who is running against Abbott for governor, interrupted Wednesday’s news conference to call the tragedy “predictable.” He pointed the finger at Abbott and said, “That’s up to you until you decide to do something else. It’s going to keep happening.” O’Rourke was led out as several in the room yelled at him. Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin yelled that O’Rourke was a “sick son of a bitch”.

Texas has some of the most gun-friendly laws in the nation and has been the scene of some of the deadliest shootings in the United States over the past five years.

“I just don’t know how people can sell a gun like that to an 18-year-old kid,” said Siria Arizmendi, the aunt of victim Eliahna Garcia, angry through tears. “What will he use it for if not for this purpose?”

President Joe Biden said Wednesday that “the Second Amendment is not absolute” when he called for new restrictions on guns in the wake of the massacre.

But prospects for reforming the country’s gun laws seemed bleak. Repeated attempts over the years to expand background checks and enact other restrictions have met Republican opposition in Congress.

The shooting happened days before the start of the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting in Houston, which was scheduled to be addressed by the governor of Texas and the state’s two Republican US senators.

Dillon Silva, whose nephew was in a classroom, said the students were watching the Disney movie Moana when they heard several loud bangs and a bullet shattered a window. Moments later, her teacher saw the attacker walking by.

“Oh my god, he’s got a gun!” According to Silva, the teacher screamed twice. “The teacher didn’t even have time to lock the door,” he said.

Built around a shaded central square, the close-knit community includes many families who have lived there for generations.

Lorena Auguste was a substitute teacher at Uvalde High School when she heard about the shooting and began frantically texting her niece, a fourth grader at Robb Elementary. Eventually she found out that the girl was fine.

But that evening her niece had a question.

“Why did they do this to us?” asked the girl. “We’re good kids. We haven’t done anything wrong.”

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. School shooting in Uvalde, Texas: Eyewitnesses urged police to enter the Texas school after the shooting began, witnesses say

Dais Johnston

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