Nineteen children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, have been shot and killed, according to The New York Times. The publication updated the count to 21 deaths early Wednesday morning after it had been reported on May 24 that 18 children and three adults were killed. The shooter, an 18-year-old male named Salvadore Romus, is also dead. Two officers were injured, but are expected to survive.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott held a press conference on Wednesday afternoon and confirmed the shooter was killed by a Border Patrol officer. “Officers with the Consolidated Independent School District (ISD) approached the gunman and engaged with the gunman,” he said. “The gunman then entered a backdoor and went down two short hallways and then into a classroom on the left-hand side. Border Patrol, Consolidated ISD officers, police, sheriffs and DPS (Texas Department of Public Safety) officers converged on that classroom. And a Border Patrol officer killed the gunman.”
After revealing he had a “long discussion” with law enforcement officials, Abbott appeared to place the blame for the shooting on mental health issues. “The question was, what is the problem here?” Abbot said. “And [law enforcement officials] were straightforward and emphatic. They said … ‘We have a problem with mental health illness in this community.’ And then they elaborated on the magnitude of the mental health challenges that they are facing in the community and the need for more mental health support in this region.”
At one point in the press conference, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke interrupted Abbott to condemn officials for not taking action with gun laws. “The time to stop the next shooting is right now and you are doing nothing,” O’Rourke said, before he escorted from the meeting by security. “You are offering us nothing. You said it’s not predictable. This is totally predictable when you choose not to do anything.”
Before the derailment, Abbott claimed Romus had announced his plans to shoot up a school on Facebook just minutes before the massacre began. “I’m going to shoot my grandmother,” and “I’m going to shoot an elementary school,” the teenager wrote in the half hour before arriving at Robb Elementary, according to Abbott.
Romus resided in Uvalde, a mostly Latino community, and attended a nearby high school, according to Abbott. The exact high school was not named. Abbott also reported that Salvadore shot his own grandmother in the face before driving to Robb Elementary and opening fire. The grandmother, Celia Martinez Gonzales, 66, is in the hospital recovering from surgery, per the New York Post. “She will be needing many more surgeries in the weeks to come,” Gonzalez’s granddaughter, Shelby Celeste Salazar, told the publication on May 26. “She won’t be home anytime soon.”
The type of handgun used is currently unknown. In Texas, it is legal to carry a handgun in public without a license. However, they are prohibited “on the physical premises of a school or educational institution, any grounds or building on which an activity sponsored by a school or educational institution is being conducted, or a passenger transportation vehicle of a school or educational institution, whether the school or educational institution is public or private” unless the person has a specific license or is authorized by the specific institution, according to HB 1927.
Abbott expressed his deepest sympathies following the tragedy. “When parents drop their kids off at school, they have every expectation to know that they’re going to be able to pick their child up when that school day ends. And there are families who are in mourning right now,” he said, per ABC News. “The state of Texas is in mourning with them for the reality that these parents are not going to be able to pick up their children.”
During a press briefing Tuesday night, President Joe Biden sent his support to the affected families and demanded change. “To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away. There’s a hollowness in your chest. You feel like you’re being sucked into it and will never be able to get out. Suffocating. It’s never quite the same,” he said, before asking fellow Americans to pray for the families.
He next questioned why school massacres “rarely” happen in other countries. “They have mental health problems, they have domestic disputes in other countries, they have people who are lost. Why are we willing to live with this carnage? Why do we keep letting this happen? Where in God’s name is our backbone?” He continued with a call to action. “It’s time to turn this pain into action … We have to make it clear to every elected official in this country, it’s time to act,” he stated.
Before Biden’s briefing, Vice President Kamala Harris shared a similar plea at the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies 28th Annual Awards. “So while we don’t know all the details yet, we do know that there are parents who have lost children, families that have lost children and their loves ones, of course, and many others who may have been injured,” she began. “So, I would normally say in a moment like this — we would all say naturally — that our hearts break, but our hearts keep getting broken. You know, I think so many — there’s so many elected leaders in this room. You know what I’m talking about. Every time a tragedy like this happens, our hearts break, and our broken hearts are nothing compared to the broken hearts of those families. And yet, it keeps happening.”
She then strongly urged the people sitting before her to take action to ensure no more innocent lives are lost due to gun violence. “So, I think we all know and have said many times with each other: Enough is enough. Enough is enough. As a nation, we have to have the courage to take action and understand the nexus between what make for reasonable and sensible public policy to ensure something like this never happens again,” she pressed.
She concluded, “And it is difficult at a time like this to think about much else, but I do look around this room and I know who is here, and I know this is a room full of American leaders who know and have the courage to take a stand.”
Other politicians reacted with heavy hearts to the shooting news. Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic politician who is running in Texas’ 2022 gubernatorial race tweeted, “Our broken hearts are with Uvalde.” He later slammed Abbott for not doing enough to prevent such shootings. “The moment to stop Uvalde was right after Sandy Hook. After Santa Fe High. After El Paso. Instead, Abbott made it easier to carry guns in public. The moment to stop the next slaughter is right now,” he wrote. Democratic congressman Joaquin Castro also advocated for gun reform in a very pointed tweet. “Uvalde is a wonderful, tight-knit community west of my hometown of San Antonio. My heart goes out to the community and the families in Uvalde devastated by gun violence today. This is a parent’s worst nightmare. We need gun reform now,” he stressed.
Uvalde is the hometown of famed actor Matthew McConaughey. Early morning on May 25, he released a statement on his social media to address the deadly massacre. “As you all are aware there was another mass shooting today, this time in my home town of Uvalde, Texas. Once again, we have tragically proven that we are failing to be responsible for the rights our freedoms grant us,” he began.
He then encouraged Americans to reflect on why more innocent children have been slaughtered at school. “The true call to action now is for every American to take a longer and deeper look in the mirror, and ask ourselves, ‘What is it that we truly value? How do we repair the problem? What small sacrifices can we individually take today, to preserve a healthier and safer nation, state, and neighborhood tomorrow?’ We cannot exhale once again, make excuses, and accept these tragic realities as the status quo,” he wrote. “As Americans, Texans, mothers and fathers, it’s time we re-evaluate, and renegotiate our wants from our needs. We have to rearrange our values and find a common ground above this devastating American reality that has tragically become our children’s issue.”
He concluded, “This is an epidemic we can control, and whichever side of the aisle we may stand on, we all know we can do better. We must do better. Action must be taken so that no parent has to experience what the parents in Uvalde and the others before them have endured. To those who dropped their loved ones off to school not knowing that today was goodbye, no words can comprehend or heal your loss, but if prayers can provide comfort, we will keep them coming.”