Eighteen students and three adults killed in Texas school shooting

A gunman who opened fire in an elementary school in Texas on Tuesday killed at least 18 children and three adults, a state senator said, marking the deadliest school shooting in the state’s history and the worst in the US in the last decade.

Senator Roland Gutierrez of Texas said he was briefed by state police on the latest fatalities at the deadly shooting in the Robb elementary school in Uvalde, a heavily Latino community about 85 miles west of San Antonio near the Mexico border.

Three people wounded in the attack remained hospitalized in serious condition, the senator said.

Earlier in the day, Texas governor Greg Abbott had told reporters at least 14 children and one adult had been killed in the school shooting in the south-west of the state. The shooter died at the scene, Abbott said at a press conference. It appeared he was shot by responding officers. Two officers were struck by rounds, but have no serious injuries, the governor added.

An Uvalde police spokesperson did not confirm the numbers, identities or ages of the dead as given by the governor. But he didsay the school “has children that are in second-, third- and fourth-grade”, meaning many of the victimswere likely between the ages of seven and ten.

This week marked the last week of school before summer break. The shooting took place at approximately 11.30am and it appeared the gunman acted alone, said Pete Arredondo, chief of the Uvalde consolidated independent school district police department, at a brief press conference on Tuesday afternoon.

The gunman entered the school with with a handgun and possibly a rifle, Abbott said. Officials did not immediately reveal a motive, but Abbott identified the gunman as 18-year-old Salvador Ramos from Uvalde. Abbott said there were reports the man had also shot his grandmother before entering the school, but the governor did not offer further information on her condition.

Tuesday’s shooting came a little more than a week after 10 people were killed in a supermarket in a predominantly Black area of Buffalo, New Yorkwhich is being investigated as a racially motivated hate crime, and a gunman attacked a Taiwanese Presbyterian church in California, killing one and injuring five.

The latest in a string of massacres, it sparked outrage over Republican leaders’ opposition to new gun control measures and renewed calls for meaningful gun control reforms.

“We’re devastated by this horrific act of gun violence that will forever traumatize the Uvalde community,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, a grassroots organization that is part of Everytown. “School shootings are not acts of nature, they’re man-made acts of inaction, of cowardice, of corruption by all lawmakers who refuse to pass laws proven by data to stop preventable, senseless shootings like in Uvalde. We cannot and will not accept a reality in which our children aren’t safe in schools or their communities.”

Such efforts are all but sure to fall short, however. There was a push to enact gun safety measures ten years ago after 20 young children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. But the efforts to pass legislation, which Joe Biden supported as vice-president, fell apart in the US Senate. The Uvalde massacre was the 27th school shooting this year in the US, according to Education Week.

On Tuesday the White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre said Biden, who was on his way back from a presidential visit to Asia, had been briefed “on the horrific news of the elementary school shooting in Texas and will continue to be briefed regularly as information becomes available.

“His prayers are with the families impacted by this awful event, and he will speak this evening when he arrives back at the White House.”

The president ordered all flags on federal buildings to be flown at half-staff.

Earlier in the day, as news of the shooting spread, Uvalde memorial hospital said it received 13 children via ambulance or bus after the shooting. The hospital said two died. Another hospital, University hospital, said a 66-year-old woman and a 10-year-old girl were in critical condition.

Tom Nordwick, chief executive of Uvalde memorial hospital, told the Guardian 16 people were taken to the emergency room from the shooting. He said two were deceased upon arrival, and 13 of them were children treated in the ER.

At the school, a heavy police presence surrounded the building, officers in heavy vests diverting traffic and FBI agents coming and going.

Some of the deadliest mass shootings in the US have taken place in Texas in recent years, including an El Paso Walmart shooting in 2019 that left 23 people dead in what is considered one of the worst attacks on Latinos in modern US history; a Sante Fe school shooting in 2018 that killed ten people; and a 2017 church shooting in Sutherland Springs that claimed 26 victims.

Abbott, the Texas governor, has been a vocal opponent of gun control and he and both of the state’s US senators were scheduled to speak at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Houston later this week.

Texas legislators enacted a new pro-gun law last year allowing most residents of the state to openly carry guns without having to get permits or complete training.

Rena Estala, a volunteer with the Texas chapter of Students Demand Action, said in a statement on Tuesday: “We are heartbroken for everyone impacted by this senseless act of violence in a predominantly Latinx community. School is the last place where kids should have to worry about gun violence. We need leaders at every level to prioritize gun safety now.”

Additional reporting by Ramon Antonio Vargas


Story first published on The Guardian

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Martin Pengelly, Sam Levin and agencies, The Guardian