UPDATE | Gunman kills 18 children, 3 adults in US mass shooting
UVALDE, Texas (AP) — An 18-year-old gunman opened fire Tuesday at a Texas elementary school, killing at least 18 children as he went from classroom to classroom, officials said, in the latest gruesome moment for a country scarred by a string of massacres. The assailant was killed by law enforcement.
The death toll also included three adults, according to state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who said he had been briefed by state police. But it was not immediately clear whether that number included the attacker.
The massacre at Robb Elementary School in the heavily Latino town of Uvalde was the deadliest shooting at a U.S. grade school since a gunmen killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, almost a decade ago.
The attack came just 10 days after a deadly, racist rampage at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket that added to a yearslong series of mass killings at churches, schools and stores. And the prospects for any reform of the nation's gun regulations seemed at least as dim as in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook deaths.
“My heart is broken today,” said Hal Harrell, the school district superintendent, announcing that all school activities were cancelled until further notice. “We're a small community and we're going to need you prayers to get through this.”
The gunman, who was wearing body armor and had hinted on social media of an upcoming attack, crashed his car outside the school and went inside armed, Sgt. Erick Estrada of the Texas Department of Public Safety told CNN.
He killed his grandmother before heading to the school with two military-style rifles he had purchased on his birthday, Gutierrez said.
“That was the first thing he did on his 18th birthday,” he 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 community about 85 miles (135 kilometers) west of San Antonio.
A Border Patrol agent who was working 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.
The school district's police chief, Pete Arredondo, said that the attacker acted alone.
It was not immediately clear how many people were wounded, but Arredondo said there were “several injuries.” Earlier, Uvalde Memorial Hospital said 13 children were taken there. Another hospital reported a 66-year-old woman was in critical condition.
Robb Elementary School has an enrolment of just under 600 students, and Arredondo said it serves students in the second, third and fourth grade. He did not provide ages of the children who were shot. This was the school's last week of classes before summer break.
Heavily armed law enforcement officers swarmed to the school, with officers in tactical vests diverting traffic and FBI agents coming and going from the building.
In 2018, a gunman fatally shot 10 people at Santa Fe High School in the Houston area. A year before that, a gunman at a Texas church killed more than two dozen people during a Sunday service in the small town of Sutherland Springs. In 2019, another gunman at a Walmart in El Paso killed 23 people in a racist attack.
The shooting came days before the National Rifle Association annual convention was set to begin in Houston. Abbott and both of Texas' U.S. senators were among elected Republican officials who were the scheduled speakers at a Friday leadership forum sponsored by the NRA's lobbying arm.
In the years since Sandy Hook, the gun control debate in Congress has waxed and waned. Efforts by lawmakers to change U.S. gun policies in any significant way have consistently faced roadblocks from Republicans and the influence of outside groups such as the NRA.
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