UVALDE, Texas – A Texas law enforcement officer sought to reassure the public Thursday that immediate efforts were made to stop the gunman at the school shooting where 19 children and two teachers were killed as complaints surfaced about a delay in taking action.
The suspect, identified as 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, initially shot at Robb Elementary School from the parking lot before entering "unobstructed'' at 11:40 a.m. through an apparently unlocked door, Victor Escalon, South Texas regional director of the Department of Public Safety, said at a news conference.
Four minutes later, Escalon said, local police arrived.
"They hear gunfire, they take rounds, they move back, get cover, and during that time they approach where the suspect is at,'' said Escalon, adding that the gunman soon afterward entered a classroom as the officers requested additional help.
While waiting for backups, Escalon said the officers evacuated students and teachers from other parts of the school. The shooter barricaded himself inside a fourth-grade classroom, where according to some reports all the victims were killed. Escalon said most of the shooting happened early in the attack but did not respond to a question about why police didn't break through.
As the drama unfolded, some community members outside the school urged police officers to charge in. “Go in there! Go in there!” women shouted at officers soon after the attack began, said Juan Carranza, 24, who saw the scene from outside his house. The officers did not immediately enter the building, he said.
The law enforcement response is under investigation.
TEXAS SCHOOL SHOOTING VICTIMS LIST: Families mourn those lost in the Texas school shooting
Most victims reportedly shot in first minutes of carnage
Most if not all of the victims were shot within the first minutes after the gunman arrived at the school, according to Texas law enforcement officials.
Victor Escalon, South Texas regional director of the Department of Public Safety, said at a Thursday news conference that reports of a school district police officer confronting the suspect were inaccurate.
"He walked in unobstructed initially,'' Escalon said. According to the information police have, the suspect did not respond to negotiation, Escalon said. He said the majority of the gunfire — numerous rounds — were fired in the first minutes the gunman was inside the school.
Within four minutes, police were inside the school, Escalon said. But according to officials, it wasn’t until “approximately an hour later” when U.S. Border Control tactical teams arrived and killed the suspect.
- Celina Tebor
Gunman was shot 40 minutes or more after attack began
Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said a Border Patrol tactical team shot the gunman 40 minutes to an hour after he fired on a school security officer, though the department later said it could not estimate how long the gunman was in the school.
A law enforcement official told The Associated Press the Border Patrol agents who rushed to the school had trouble breaching the classroom door, finally getting a staff member to open the room with a key. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk publicly about the investigation.
"The bottom line is law enforcement was there," McCraw said. "They did engage immediately. They did contain (the gunman) in the classroom."
Texas officials are scrutinizing the law enforcement response. Sources close to the investigation said the review is routine after a major incident, but it has intensified in this case because of differing accounts from neighbors and witnesses about what police did and when. Authorities also are awaiting final collection of evidence at the scene and analysis of ballistics.
DID POLICE RESOND FAST ENOUGH?: Texas officials are investigating efforts to stop shooter at Uvalde school
Husband of slain teacher dies of heart attack, nephew says
The husband of one of the two teachers killed at Tuesday's school shooting in Texas died Thursday of a heart attack, his nephew said.
Joe Garcia had left flowers Thursday morning at the memorial site for Irma Garcia, gunned down along with 20 others Tuesday at Robb Elementary School, and after returning home he collapsed and couldn't be revived.
"He sat down at the kitchen table with his entire family, and after 3 minutes, he just fell over,'' his nephew John Martinez of San Marcos, Texas, told the Detroit Free Press in a phone interview. "I'm told my mom was giving him chest compressions.''
Joe Garcia, 50, and Irma Garcia, 46, were married for 24 years and had four children.
"It genuinely feels like I got hit by another truck. It just doesn't make sense," Martinez said. "My heart hurts so bad for my four cousins. I did hear from my little brother that my dad's chest was hurting as well. My parents lost family and their best friends."
-- Phoebe Wall Howard, Detroit Free Press
Mother says son 'not a monster'
Adriana Reyes, the mother of gunman Salvador Ramos, 18, told ABC News her son was "not a monster" but could be "aggressive." Reyes said she wasn't aware that her son bought two rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in the week before Tuesday's deadly rampage. She last saw her son on his birthday, May 16, she said.
"We all have a rage, some people have it more than others," Reyes told ABC.
She expressed sympathy for the victims.
"Those kids … I have no words," Reyes said. "I don't know what to say about those poor kids."
Reyes told Britain's Daily Mail that Ramos kept to himself and had few friends. The shooter's grandfather, Rolando Reyes, told the Daily Mail his grandson did not graduate high school.
"You would try to tell him, but kids nowadays they think they know everything," he said.
Musicians pull out of NRA convention in Houston, politicians stay
Some of the musicians who were scheduled to appear at this weekend's National Rifle Association convention in Houston have canceled in deference to the victims of the Uvalde shooting, but big-name politicians still plan to show up.
Don McLean, of "American Pie'' fame, and country singers Larry Gatlin of the Gatlin Brothers and Larry Stewart said they're withdrawing.
"In light of the recent events in Texas, I have decided it would be disrespectful and hurtful for me to perform for the NRA at their convention in Houston this week," McLean said in a statement to USA TODAY on Thursday.
No such statements were forthcoming from former President Donald Trump, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott or Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, all of whom plan to attend.
-- Elise Brisco
'You will be missed': Crosses at park commemorate victims
At Uvalde’s central park, where wagon drivers once met to find community, 21 crosses have been erected bearing the names of those killed in Tuesday’s massacre.
The wooden crosses, white with blue hearts crisscrossed with scripture, were put up by Lutheran Church Charities, an international organization that provides therapy dogs for people needing comfort. Several canines were on hand from Texas and Oklahoma, with two more on the way from Colorado.
Robert Dennis, 56, was among the Uvalde residents who came by to offer his thoughts, using the black markers dangling from each cross. Dennis, a dishwasher at a local restaurant, said he was acquainted with the grandmother of one of the victims, McKenna Elrond.
After scrawling, “You Will Be Missed” on McKenna’s cross, he did the same for every cross in succession. “It didn’t seem right to do it for just her,” he said.
-- Marc Ramirez
High school graduation ceremonies postponed
School officials announced Thursday they have canceled high school graduation set for Friday evening at the Honey Bowl stadium. In a statement, the Uvalde Consolidated Independent District did not say when the graduation would be rescheduled. “Out of the deepest respect for the families and our community affected by the tragedy we have experienced, the Uvalde High School Graduation Ceremony has been postponed," the statement said. "This is a difficult time for everyone. Please keep all families in your prayers.”
Thursday was supposed to be the district’s last day of classes, but they were halted after the shooting. Officials on Thursday were instead distributing snack kits to families whose kids ordinarily get meals at school.
What do we know about the Texas school shooting victims?
Nineteen children and two teachers were killed in the shooting, Texas Department of Public Safety Lt. Chris Olivarez said. A U.S. Customs and 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 on Tuesday night.
All the children were fourth graders. The two longtime teachers were identified as Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia.
Audrey Garcia, a parent of one of Mireles' former students, thanked the teacher for supporting her daughter Gabby, now 23, when she was in third grade. In a Twitter tribute, Garcia called Mireles a "beautiful person & dedicated teacher."
"There are no words," she wrote. Read more here.
BLOODSHED SINCE SANDY HOOK: Uvalde school shooting among deadliest school attacks in past 10 years
Gunmaker draws scrutiny – Uvalde shooter bought one of its rifles
Gun manufacturer Daniel Defense, which saw its sales spike after the massacre in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, is under scrutiny after the Texas shooting because the gunman purchased one of the company's rifles and brought it to Tuesday's attack.
Though Daniel Defense is largely shielded from civil liability by the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, such cover has been pierced, and the company may face years of expensive litigation, not to mention public backlash.
Families of the Sandy Hook victims successfully sued Remington, the producer of the Bushmaster XM15-E2S semi-automatic rifle used in the assault. In February, the gunmaker agreed to a $73 million settlement in the case, which hinged on marketing materials targeted at young men that suggested proof of masculinity and fears of having your “man card” revoked. Daniel Defense’s marketing and the focus on “tactical” and combat gear could invite civil action.
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Schools on alert across the nation
Schools around the country increased security as a precaution. Schools in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Virginia, Maryland and Florida were among those offering counseling.
In Connecticut, where 20 first graders and six educators were killed in the Sandy Hook shooting, state police said they sent extra troopers to schools Wednesday, although no specific threats had been received.
“This assault on the most innocent of our citizens is deeply disturbing and heartbreaking,” state police Col. Stavros Mellekas said in a statement. “At this time, our focus will be on protecting all school populations here in our state.”
Contributing: Nick Penzenstadler, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Texas school shooting live updates: Onlookers urged police to go in