UVALDE, Texas ( Associated Press) – Javier Cázares ran to his daughter’s school when he heard a gunshot was going on there, causing his truck to run into the school courtyard, leaving the door open. In his hurry, he did not bring his gun.
He spent the next 35 to 45 minutes scanning the kids running from Rob Elementary School for his 9-year-old “firecracker” Jacqueline. All the while, he yearned to run by himself—and became increasingly agitated, along with other parents, that the police were doing no more to stop the teenage gunman, who was hiding in a classroom. were killing children.
“A lot of us were arguing with the police, ‘You all need to go out there. You all need to do your job,'” said Cazares, an army veteran. “Let’s go to work. and were ready to go in.”
Nineteen children and two teachers were eventually shot and killed in about 80 minutes in a small, predominantly Latino community that sits between vegetable farms halfway between San Antonio and the US-Mexico border, Texas. The gunman who spent inside the school in Uvalde shot himself.
This account of the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook is based on law enforcement’s timeline, records, and multiple interviews with Uvalde residents in the hours and days following the massacre.
Salvador Ramos woke up early on the morning of 24 May sending ominous messages. The man’s officers, identified as the gunman who turned 18 a week ago, immediately purchased two AR-15-style rifles and hundreds of ammunition.
Early in the morning in his grandparents’ shaded neighborhood, just half a mile from the site he’d turn into a murder arena, Ramos wrote “I’m about” to a woman on Instagram and a private Facebook message to someone. Sent. He was going to shoot his grandmother.
Within hours, he got it done.
Shortly after 11 a.m., a neighbor who was in his yard heard a shot and saw Ramos running from the front door of his grandparents’ house to a pickup truck parked in a narrow street. Gilbert Gallegos, 82, said the 18-year-old was nervous and struggling to get Ford out of the park.
Kicking a spray of gravel into the air, Ramos was finally gone. Moments later, her grandmother emerged from the one-story house covered in blood.
“That’s what he did,” Gallegos recalled of his groaning. “He shot me.”
Gallegos’ wife called 911 while he took the injured woman to their backyard. As they hid and waited for the police, more shots were fired.
By 11:28 a.m., Ramos went to Rob Elementary and crashed the pickup into a creek, officials said. At the time, the video shows a teacher entering the school through a door the teacher had left and opened a minute earlier.
That door was normally locked and closed according to security protocol. But it remained ajar.
Witnesses said Ramos jumped off the passenger side of the truck with a bag full of rifles and ammunition. After shooting two men leaving a nearby funeral home, Ramos cut a chain-link fence and headed toward the school – still shooting – as panicked people nearby called the police. called.
Officers initially said that Ramos had opened fire with a school police officer before entering the building, but they later said the officers were not actually on campus and “burst” back on hearing the shooter.
But the officer initially turned to the wrong man, who turned out to be a teacher—after passing within feet of Ramos, who was behind a car parked outside the school.
From his hiding place, Ramos went for the open door, slipped through and into the surrounding fourth-grade classrooms at 11:33 p.m., officials said. He fired more than 100 rounds rapidly.
In one of those rooms, 11-year-old Mia Cerillo covered herself with a friend’s blood to appear dead, she told Nation World News. After the shooter moved into the next room, he heard screams, more gunfire and music by the gunman.
Two minutes after Ramos entered the school, three police officers followed him through the same door and quickly followed by four more men. Officials said Ramos exchanged fire from the classroom with officers in the hallway and that two of them suffered “hay wounds.”
According to a person watching from a nearby home, the first cops at the scene were gunned down by Ramos’s powerful, high-end rifle.
“After they started firing at the police, the police stopped shooting,” said Juan Carranza, 24. “You could tell he had weapons more powerful than the police.”
After the shots sounded, a cafeteria worker who had just finished serving chicken tacos to 75 third-graders said a woman shouted in the lunchroom: “Code Black. That’s no drill!”
The staff didn’t know what “code black” meant, but closed blinds, locked doors and took students backstage, said the activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid publicity. Of. After this some employees took shelter in the kitchen.
About half an hour after the first officers chased Ramos, 19 piled up in the hall, officials said.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the building, students and teachers were trying to get out, some with the help of the police were coming out of the windows.
Cazares isn’t exactly sure when he got to the scene, but when he did, he saw about five officers helping people escape. He kept a close eye to see if Jacqueline, whom he later said loved gymnastics, singing and dancing, was one of them.
About 15 to 20 minutes after arriving at the school, he said he first saw officers approaching with heavy shields.
In the chaos, he felt that time was “going so fast and it was going so slow.”
But he added: “From what I saw, things could have been very different.”
Other parents felt the same way. One onlooker recalled a woman yelling at officers, “Get over there! Get in!”
At 12:03, a student called 911 and whispered that she was inside the classroom with the gunman.
Minutes later, the Uvalde school district posted on Facebook that all campuses were in lockdown, but that “students and staff are safe in the buildings. The buildings are safe.”
The student called 911 again a few minutes after her first call, to say that several were dead, and then called back shortly thereafter, saying that eight or nine students were still alive.
Thirty-four minutes have passed since that last call when the US Border Patrol Tactical Team used a school employee’s key to unlock the classroom door and kill the gunman.
An open door had let him in. A locked door kept him inside and law enforcement escorted him out.
Police did not swiftly break into the classroom because the commander inside the building — the school district’s police chief, Pete Arredondo — believed the situation had changed from an active shooting to a hostage situation, according to the Texas Department of Public Affairs. Chief Steven McCraw told Security.
According to two law enforcement officers who spoke on condition of anonymity, officials from other agencies urged the school police chief to let them in because the children were in danger because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the investigation. went. McCraw said the bullets were “sporadic” while officers waited in the hallway and investigators did not know whether the children had died during that time.
“It was the wrong decision,” McCraw said.
Arredondo could not be reached for comment. No one answered the door at his home on Friday, and he did not respond to a phone message left at the district police headquarters.
The loss of so many young lives and the admission of errors by the police has raised suspicion, even for some Second Amendment-supporters in the Texas community, that the state’s Republican leaders used the aftermath of this and other mass shootings. Have done: “What stops armed bad people armed are good people.”
Cazares, a gun owner and supporter of the Second Amendment, said he shied away from politics – but said he thinks there should be stricter gun laws, including better background checks. He said the type of gun used by the attacker on the 18-year-old was “ridiculous”.
Cazares left school before Ramos was killed by officers at 12:50 p.m. He arrived at the hospital because his niece said he saw Jacqueline in an ambulance.
The entire family soon gathered there, pressuring the hospital staff for information for nearly three hours. Finally, a priest, a police officer and a doctor met him.
“My wife asked the question, ‘Is she alive or has she passed? Kazares said. “They were like, ‘No, she’s gone.'”
When he was finally able to see his daughter’s body, Cazares vowed that her death would not be in vain.
Later, he sheds tears as he contemplates his daughter’s final moments.
“She can be enthusiastic,” he said. “It comforts our hearts that she will be one of those people who were brave and tried to help as much as they could.”
Bleiberg reported from Dallas. Associated Press journalists Jim Vertuno and Robert Bumstead in Uvalde, Mike Balsamo in Washington and Stephen Groves in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, contributed to this report.
More on the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas: https://apnews.com/hub/uvalde-school-shooting