Uvalde Police Face Backlash after School Shooting Response
- By Ralph C. Jensen, Matt Jones
- May 24, 2022
UPDATE: May 31, 11:40 a.m. Central Time
Local Law Enforcement Face Backlash after Response to Elementary Shooting
The U.S. Department of Justice announced on Sunday, May 29, that it will be conducting a review of local law enforcement’s response to the shooting at Robb Elementary School last week. The review comes at the request of Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin, according to a press release.
“The goal of the review is to provide an independent account of law enforcement actions and responses that day, and to identify lessons learned and best practices to help first responders prepare for and respond to active shooter events. The review will be conducted with the Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing,” read the statement.
“As with prior Justice Department after-action reviews of mass shootings and other critical incidents, this assessment will be fair, transparent, and independent. The Justice Department will publish a report with its findings at the conclusion of its review.”
The announcement comes two days after a press conference held by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in which he said he was “misled” regarding law enforcement’s initial response to the gunman. “I am livid about what happened,” said Gov. Abbott on Friday, May 28. “The information I was given turned out, in part, to be inaccurate, and I am absolutely livid about that.”
Texas Department of Public Safety Col. Steven McCraw said Friday that, in hindsight, officers should have entered the classroom sooner instead of waiting for over an hour. McCraw said that as many as 19 local and federal officers were in the hallway outside the classroom for most of that time. McCraw said that the school district’s chief of police wanted to wait for backup and equipment.
“From the benefit of hindsight, where I’m sitting now, of course it was not the right decision,” said McCraw. “It was the wrong decision, period. There’s no excuse for that. When it comes to an active shooter, you don’t have to wait on tactical gear, plain and simple.”
UPDATE: May 27, 10:00 a.m., Central Time
Community Gathers to Remember Shooting Victims
In the aftermath of the shooting that killed 19 children and two adults, the community of Uvalde gathered to remember the victims and support their loved ones. A memorial at the Uvalde County Fairplex on Wednesday night drew nearly 2,000 members of the town, where ministers led them in prayer. Volunteers provided refreshments and golden retrievers were on hand to provide emotional support. Community leaders and state politicians including Gov. Greg Abbott, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, and Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke also attended.
Local news sources report that two local funeral homes—Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home and Rushing-Estes-Knowles Mortuary—will offer their services free of charge to the victims’ families.
National news sources also report that Joe Garcia—the husband of fourth-grade teacher Irma Garcia, one of two teachers killed—suffered a fatal heart attack on Thursday. CNN reports that the couple had four children, two sons and two daughters. The family said they believe this is a case of broken heart syndrome.
“I truly believe Joe died of a broken heart and losing the love of his life of more than 25 years was too much to bear,” wrote Irma Garcia’s cousin, Debra Austin, on the family’s GoFundMe site.
The victims of the shooting who have been publicly identified by friends and family include:
- Alexandria Aniyah Rubio, 10
- Alithia Ramirez, 10
- Amerie Jo Garza, 10
- Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez, 10
- Eliahana Cruz Torres, 10
- Eliana “Ellie” Garcia, 9
- Eva Mireles, 44 (fourth-grade teacher)
- Irma Garcia (fourth-grade teacher)
- Jackie Cazares, 10
- Jailah Nicole Silguero, 10
- Jayce Luevanos, 10
- Jose Flores, 10
- Layla Salazar, 10
- Makenna Lee Elrod, 10
- Maite Rodriguez
- Miranda Mathis, 11
- Nevaeh Bravo
- Rojelio Torres, 10
- Tess Marie Mata
- Uziyah Garcia, 10
- Xavier Lopez, 10
UPDATE: May 26, 12:00 p.m., Central Time
Uncertainty Surrounds Law Enforcement Response to Uvalde Shooter
In the aftermath of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two teachers dead, uncertainty has emerged regarding the response of law enforcement.
According to authorities, about 30 minutes before the violence began, the gunman began sharing messages through Facebook that hinted at his plans. Facebook’s parent company, Meta, clarified that the messages were “private one-to-one text messages that were discovered after the tragedy occurred,” according to the Texas Tribune.
Gov. Greg Abbott said in a press conference that after the gunman shot his grandmother, he fled in her truck while she called police. He crashed near the school. At the same press conference, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw said that the shooter approached the back door of the elementary school and was confronted by a school resource officer. McCraw said that the officer “engaged him at that time” but that “the subject was able to make it into the school.” It remains unconfirmed whether the officer and the shooter exchanged gunfire.
“He went down a hallway, turned right and then turned left and there were two classrooms that were adjoining,” McCraw said. “And that is where the carnage began.”
Texas Department of Public Safety spokesperson Lt. Chris Olivarez said that the gunman barricaded himself in a classroom and “began shooting anyone that was in his way.” Olivarez said that law enforcement officers who arrived on the scene could hear gunshots in the classroom and that the shooter fired at them as they tried to enter the school. Some of the officers were shot, according to Olivarez. Officers began breaking windows around the school to help evacuate students, faculty and staff.
Olivarez said that officers eventually forced entry into the classroom and killed the shooter. Gov. Abbott specified that it was a U.S. Border Patrol agent that killed the gunman.
The Associated Press reports that onlookers gathered around the school during the proceedings and urged officers to charge into the building. “Go in there! Go in there!” shouted several onlookers, according to Juan Carranza, who lives near the school, as reported by the AP.
Javier Cazares, whose daughter was killed in the attack, said he arrived at the school as news spread about the shooting. Cazares expressed frustration that the police weren’t moving in and raised the idea of entering the school himself with other bystanders. “Let’s just rush in because the cops aren’t doing anything like they are supposed to,” he said. “More could have been done. They were unprepared.”
McCraw told reporters that 40–60 minutes elapsed between the time the shooter fired on a security officer and being shot himself by the U.S. Border Patrol Agent, according to the Associated Press. Another law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that Border Patrol agents had trouble accessing the classroom and had to find a staff member to open the room with a key.
“The bottom line is law enforcement was there,” said McCraw. “They did engage immediately. They did contain [the shooter] in the classroom.”
UPDATE: May 25, 2:30 p.m., Central Time
Texas Governor Holds Press Conference About Uvalde Shooting
Texas Governor Greg Abbot said that the gunman who killed 21 people in Uvalde posted his intentions on Facebook just before the shooting, speaking at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
Before the attack, the shooter posted three messages, said Abbott. The first, about 30 minutes before the shooting, said that he was going to shoot his grandmother, according to CBS News. He said in the second that he had shot his grandmother, and about 15 minutes before the shooting began, he posted a third time “to say he was going to open fire at an elementary school,” according to CBS News.
CBS News also reports that Facebook has clarified that the shooter’s social media posts “were private one-to-one text messages that were discovered after the terrible tragedy occurred,” not public posts.
Abbott elaborated that district police officers met the gunman as he arrived at the school, but that he entered through a back door and navigated two hallways into a classroom. The classroom connected internally to a second classroom, the governor said.
“At that point, [he] just started shooting children and teachers that were inside that classroom, having no regard for human life,” said Lt. Christopher Olivarez of the Texas Department of Public Safety. “Just a complete tragedy. An evil person going into the school and killing children for no reason whatsoever.”
CNN has also identified two more victims of the shooting in addition to fourth-grade teacher Eva Mireles and student Uziyah Garcia (whose age is reported as 8 years old by the Associated Press and 10 years old by CNN).
One is 10-year-old Xavier Lopez, confirmed by his mother to the Washington Post. She told the paper that “He was funny, never serious and his smile.”
The other is 10-year-old Amerie Jo Garza. “Thank you everyone for the prayers and help trying to find my baby. She’s been found,” posted her father Angel Garza, to Facebook on Wednesday morning. “My little love is now flying high with the angels above. Please don’t take a second for granted. Hug your family. Tell them you love them. I love you Amerie Jo. Watch over your baby brother for me.”
Abbott also said during the press conference that in addition to the 19 children and two adults killed, there were 17 people wounded during the attack. Abbott called the injuries non-life-threatening, according to NPR. Abbott also said that one of the students killed was the daughter of a sheriff's deputy.
Tuesday's shooting took place two days before the scheduled last day of school. Some of the children had received honor roll certificates that morning, just hours before they were killed.
UPDATE: May 25, 9:30 a.m., Central Time
Authorities: Gunman Barricaded Himself in Classroom with Victims
The Associated Press reports that gunman Salvador Ramos barricaded himself in a classroom and “began shooting anyone that was in his way,” according to authorities. Lt. Christopher Olivarez of the Texas Department of Public Safety said Wednesday that all 21 victims (19 children and two adults) were from the same fourth-grade classroom.
Olivarez said that law enforcement officers broke into the classroom and killed the shooter. Other police and first responders circled the building’s perimeter and broke windows to allow students and teachers to escape, he said. The shooter “barricaded himself by locking the door and just started shooting children and teachers that were inside that classroom,” said Olivarez. “It just shows you the complete evil of the shooter.”
Among the victims was fourth-grade teacher Eva Mireles, who had been an educator for 17 years. Mireles’ aunt, Lydia M. Delgado, said that Mireles took pride in teaching primarily Latino students and was also an avid hiker. Delgado called her “very loved” and “the fun of the party,” according to the DFW affiliate of NBC News.
Fourth-grade teacher Eva Mireles
Also among the dead is 8-year-old Uziah Garcia, according to the victim’s grandfather, Manny Renfro. Renfro said that he visited his grandson in San Angelo, Texas, during spring break.
“The sweetest little boy that I’ve ever known,” said Renfro. “I’m not just saying that because he was my grandkid.”
CNN reports that as of 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday, all victims killed during the violence have been removed from the building and identified, and that all of their family members have been notified.
UPDATE: May 25, 12:10 a.m., central time
School Shooting is a Bloody Rampage
Nineteen elementary school-aged children have been murdered, as well as two teachers at a Texas elementary school in Uvalde. This marks the nation’s worst school shooting in nearly a decade. Children attending Robb Elementary school range in ages from 7 to 10.
The gunman, 18-year old Salvador Ramos ignited the carnage after shooting his own grandmother, who survived. The gunman fled that scene and crashed his car near Robb Elementary School. Apparently dressed in body armor, he emerged from his disabled vehicle only to engage law enforcement before rushing into the school.
Speaking to the American public on election night, Pres. Joe Biden has ordered half-staff flags until Saturday, and in his address to the nation, said, "As a nation, we have to ask, 'When in God's name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?'" Biden said on national television, suggesting reinstating a U.S. ban on assault-style weapons and other "common sense gun laws."
Law enforcement said the gunman acted alone when police confronted him at the school. Two officers were struck by gunfire, though their injuries were not serious.
One teacher was killed in this rampage, trying to protect her students. Eva Mireles was a fourth grade teacher, and had been an educator for 17 years. She was an avid hiker and took pride in teaching students of Latino heritage.
Active shooter violence on campuses is rife with horror and grief. A rampage such as this also has ignited a fierce debate between advocates of tighter gun controls and those who would argue that tighter controls would compromise the U.S. Constitutional right of Americans to bear arms.
Tuesday's shooting in Texas was the deadliest at a U.S. school campus since a gunman killed 26 people, including 20 children, in December 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. In 2018, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killed 17 students and educators. On May 18, 2018, a school shooting occurred at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, in the Houston metropolitan area. Ten people – eight students and two teachers – were fatally shot, and thirteen others were wounded. A suspect was taken into custody and later identified by police as Dimitrios Pagourtzis, a 17-year-old student at the school.
This story will be updated as new information is received.
UPDATE: May 24, 7:39 p.m., central time
Eighteen children and three adults have been confirmed dead following a deadly attack at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX. There are 535 students. The last day of school was to be Thursday, but district officials have canceled classes for the year. Uvalde has a population of about 16,000 people, and is located about 75 miles north of the Mexican border.
This is the deadliest shooting among elementary schools since the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, Conn, in 2012.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the shooter was Salvador Ramos (18) and a resident of Uvalde. He apparently abandoned his car nearby and entered the school with a handgun, and possibly a long gun. The assault started around 11:32 a.m. Ramos apparently shot and killed his grandmother before attacking the school.
Following the horror of the attack, several students were injured and taken to Uvalde Memorial Hospital and University Hospital in San Antonio for care, and two adults injured in the shooting were taken to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Both have been listed in critical condition.
Two law enforcement officials were first on the scene and were shot, but are expected to survive. A Border Patrol agency was shot and hospitalized in good condition.
There have been eight shootings in Texas since 2009 in which four victims were killed. In 1966, 18 people were killed in the University of Texas tower shooting, and in 2018 at Santa Fe High School, 10 people were gunned down and 13 others injured.
Gun deaths in the United States reached the highest number in May since 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that more than 45,000 Americans died in gun-related incidents that year. Half of those were suicides. The gun homicide rate is the highest recorded since 1994.
UPDATE: May 24, 5:04 p.m., central time
Uvalde School Shooter Named, Also Shoots Grandmother
Fourteen elementary students and 1 teacher have been killed during an active shooter situation in Uvalde, TX. Robb Elementary School teaches 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders. The horrific shooting started at 11:32 a.m. central time, according to Uvalde CISD Police Chief Pedro Arredondo.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the shooter was an 18-year-old male who resided in Uvalde. He said it's believed the suspect, who he named as Salvador Ramos, abandoned his vehicle, then entered the school with a handgun and possibly a rifle.
"He shot and killed — horrifically, incomprehensibly — 14 students and killed a teacher," Abbott said.
Arredondo said the shooting took place at approximately 11:32 a.m. local time. He did not provide many details about what transpired, but confirmed the suspect is dead and said investigators believe he acted alone.
It is also believed that Ramos shot and killed his grandmother before making his way to the elementary school.
UPDATE: May 24, 4:50 p.m., central time
As many as 14 students and one teacher were killed when a gunman opened fire at an elementary school in Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott said the shooter is also dead, and is believed to have been killed by responding law enforcement officers.
Abbott's statement comes after the district reported an active shooter at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, which is approximately an hour and a half west of San Antonio.
“At this point, the investigation is leading to tell us that the suspect did act alone during this heinous crime,” said Pete Arredondo, the chief of police for the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District.
The Uvalde Memorial Hospital previously said it received 13 children from ambulance and buses for treatment, and that two people who arrived at the hospital were deceased. A second hospital said it is caring for one child and one adult. That hospital, University Health, said a 66-year-old woman is in critical condition.
“Texans across the state are grieving for the victims of this senseless crime and for the community of Uvalde. Cecilia and I mourn this horrific loss and we urge all Texans to come together to show our unwavering support to all who are suffering. We thank the courageous first responders who worked to finally secure Robb Elementary School. I have instructed the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Rangers to work with local law enforcement to fully investigate this crime. The Texas Division of Emergency Management is charged with providing local officials all resources necessary to respond to this tragedy as the State of Texas works to ensure the community has what it needs to heal.”
Though the details of the shooting are unclear, No motive has been given, yet. The shooter, 18 years old, is reported to have been a student at Uvalde High School.
Update: May 24, 3:33 p.m.
Multiple people are dead, including several children, after an "active shooter" incident at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX, according to local law enforcement. .
Uvalde Memorial Hospital officials have confirmed that two children have died from presumed gunshot injuries. Sources also say the suspect is dead..
As many as 13 children are, or have been treated at the hospital's emergency department, hospitals officials said. Two patients were transferred to San Antonio for treatment, while a third was pending transfer. A 45-year-old was also hospitalized after getting grazed by a bullet..
University Health in San Antonio said it had two patients from the shooting incident -- a child and an adult. The hospital said the adult -- a 66-year-old woman -- is in critical condition. It did not have an update yet on the condition of the child..
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said “the situation is very bad.” He said the office is trying to contact parents before releasing any information..
Earlier, the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District had said a shooter was located at Robb Elementary School and asked people to stay away from the area..
The situation is still evolving and will be updated as more information becomes available.
Police in Uvalde, TX, have captured a suspect who targeted Robb Elementary during an active shooter incident this morning. Several people have been taken to the local hospital, and treated in the emergency room.
A statement on Facebook read that several students were being treated at Uvalde Memorial Hospital, and that one adult and a child were being evaluated at University Health.
A University Health spokesperson said she could not confirm if the patients are shooting victims, but added their injuries are related to the shooting at the school. The conditions of those being treated and the ages of the victims were not released.
Uvalde Police Department announced the apprehension of the shooter at about 1 p.m. central time. No other details have been released, including the number of those injured, or the suspect’s name.
vNews of the suspect's capture came less than an hour after the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District announced on Twitter that there was "an active shooter" at the elementary school.
“Law enforcement is on site. Your cooperation is needed at this time by not visiting the campus. As soon as more information is gathered it will be shared,” the tweet said.
The public was urged to avoid the area, according to the police department's Facebook post.
Uvalde lies about 80 miles west of San Antonio. The district's last day of school is Thursday.