Texas school shooter lived in Uvalde: What we know about gunman, motive and how weapons were obtained – USA TODAY

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Texas is reeling from its deadliest school shooting in modern state history, and on Wednesday details about the massacre and the gunman who killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas kept emerging.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott identified the assailant as Salvador Ramos, 18, and said he was a resident of the heavily Latino community about 85 miles west of San Antonio. The governor said Ramos walked into Robb Elementary School in Uvalde around 11:30 a.m. Central time and opened fire.

USA TODAY is providing general details about the alleged shooter to inform how mass attacks are often planned and carried out, particularly with respect to how weapons and targets are selected. These details give authorities and the public information that could help citizens spot future mass shooters and even prevent them.

Tuesday’s attack was the deadliest shooting at a U.S. grade school since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, almost a decade ago. The Texas shooting comes just 10 days after a gunman in body armor killed 10 Black shoppers and workers at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, in what authorities say was a racist attack.

Here’s what we know about the shooter in Tuesday’s deadly attack:

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Motive remains unclear but gunman warned online about attack, Abbott says

Officials have said they are still seeking answers about a possible motive.

Abbott on Wednesday said the shooter had no criminal adult record and no known mental health history. 

Roughly 30 minutes before the attack, the gunman issued several chilling communications on social media, Abbott said. The first was “I’m going to shoot my grandmother. The second post was, I shot my grandmother,” he said. And the third said he was going to shoot a school.

Andy Stone — a spokesman for Meta, the parent company of Facebook — said on Twitter that “the messages Gov. Abbott described were private one-to-one text messages that were discovered after the terrible tragedy occurred. We are closely cooperating with law enforcement in their ongoing investigation.”

CNN reported that the gunman sent messages to a 15-year-old girl in Germany just prior to the attack. The outlet said it reviewed screenshots of messages and spoke with the girl, who said she met the assailant online. On Monday the gunman told her he received a package of ammunition. Asked what he was going to do with it, he replied, “just wait for it.”

Texas state Sen. Roland Gutierrez told USA TODAY he was unaware that the gunman had been known to law enforcement prior to the attack.

“This is a quiet, beautiful community made up of hardworking people,” Gutierrez said, referring to the small town on the edge of the Texas Hill Country. “This is a tragedy.”

Officials say the gunman acted alone

At a news conference in Uvalde on Wednesday, Gov. Abbott said the gunman shot his grandmother in the face prior to attacking the school, calling him a “demented person.”

He and other officials said the shooter’s 66-year-old grandmother, with whom he lived since March, sought help from neighbors after she was shot while police were called.  

Law enforcement officials said at a news conference Wednesday that the grandmother was airlifted and was being treated for her injuries at a hospital in San Antonio.

The gunman fled in her automobile and had an accident just outside of elementary school and he ran into the school, Abbott said. The gunman took an AR-15-style rifle and a backpack with him. Another rifle was later discovered in his truck, according to a briefing given to lawmakers.

He encountered school resource officers but made it inside the school, officials said.

Police from several agencies converged on a classroom he’d entered and shot and killed him. But not before 19 children were killed along with two faculty members, Abbott said.

Gunman reportedly attended, dropped out of Uvalde High School

The attacker was reported to have been a student at Uvalde High School before dropping out, Abbott said.

The high school, part of the same school district as Robb Elementary where the shooting took place, enrolls about 1,100 students, according to the school district. 91% of students in the district are Hispanic, and almost 80% are economically disadvantaged, the district said. 

Uvalde is home to roughly 16,000 people, about 85 miles west of San Antonio and 75 miles from the Mexican border. More than 80% of the city’s population is Latino, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. 

Abbott said the gunman was a Uvalde local and a U.S. citizen.

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How were the weapons obtained?

The gunman allegedly legally purchased two assault rifles at a local gun store, Gutierrez told USA TODAY.

“It was the first thing he did when he turned 18,” he said on CNN, citing a briefing from Texas Rangers. 

The two semi-automatic rifles were purchased on two separate dates, March 17 and March 20, law enforcement officials said Wednesday. One was found in the gunman’s truck while the other was in the school, according to a briefing state Sen. John Whitmire said he received. 

The gunman also purchased 375 rounds of 5.56 ammunition, and what appears to be seven 30-round magazines were inside the school, according to Whitmire. A backpack with several magazines of ammunition near the entrance of the school was also found, according to Whitmire.

The shooter was wearing a plate carrier but not ballistic armor, according to Whitmire. Earlier reports said he was wearing body armor.

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Police were not pursuing the gunman before he crashed, and the first information law enforcement received about the incident was a caller reporting the crash and a man exiting the vehicle with a gun, according to Whitmire.

Lt. Christopher Olivarez of the Texas Department of Public Safety told CNN all the children and teachers who died were inside a single classroom where the shooter barricaded himself.

A U.S. Border Protection agent, one of several responding to the scene, shot and killed the gunman, a senior Department of Homeland Security official told USA TODAY. The agent was shot in the foot or lower leg when confronting the gunman, and was treated a local hospital for his injuries, the DHS official said.

The school district’s police chief, Pete Arredondo, said the gunman acted alone.

Social media posts being investigated

Meta, the parent company of Instagram, confirmed it’s working with law enforcement to review an account that appears to belong to the gunman.

A series of posts appeared on Instagram and TikTok in the days leading up to Tuesday’s shooting. One selfie appears to show the shooter in front of a mirror. Another photo shows a gun magazine in hand. And Friday, the same day law enforcement officials believe Salvador Ramos bought a second rifle, a picture of two AR-style semi-automatic rifles appeared.

Another Instagram user with many more followers was tagged in that post. That user has since removed her profile, but first she shared parts of what appears to be a chilling exchange with Ramos, asking her to share his gun pictures with her more than 10,000 followers.

“I barely know you and u tag me in a picture with some guns,” she responded, adding, “It’s just scary.”

A response sent from Ramos’s account on Tuesday morning just said: “I’m about to.”

On Wednesday, investigators said they were working to try to discover a motive or catalyst for the shooting. Law enforcement officers maintained a guard on a house where the gunman is believed to have shot his grandmother.

Wendy Arrillos, 40, a convenience store worker who lives three doors down, said she’s known the grandmother casually for more than five years, but had never seen the accused shooter before his attack left the small community reeling. 

“It’s a small town. We all know each other,” Arrillos said.

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Contributing: Trevor Hughes, Kevin McCoy, Josh Meyer and Sarah Eames, USA TODAY; Tony Plohetski, Austin American-Statesman; Eric Ferkenhoff, USA TODAY Network; The Associated Press