A gunman reportedly killed at least 18 children at a Texas elementary school Tuesday in the deadliest shooting at a U.S. grade school since the 2012 attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
State Sen. Roland Gutierrez said 18 children and three adults were dead, based on a briefing by state police. Three people wounded in the attack are hospitalized in serious condition, he said. CNN also reported that 18 children died.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other officials said the 18-year-old shooter walked into Robb Elementary School in Uvalde around 11:30 a.m. Central time and opened fire. The shooter was likely killed by responding police, Abbott said.
Federal law enforcement officials said the death toll was expected to rise. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release investigative details.
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“This was a tragic and senseless event today, and my heart was broke today,” said Hal Harrell, the school system superintendent, who said at a news conference that grief counselors would be available and classes were canceled for the year. “We’re a small community and we’ll need your prayers to get us through this.”
Abbott said two responding officers were struck by gunfire but weren’t seriously injured.
Officials have not revealed a motive for the shooting, but have said the shooter was a resident of the community. Abbott identified the gunman as Salvador Ramos.
The gunman appeared to have acted alone, Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Chief of Police Pete Arredondo said at a news conference.
Uvalde is a city of about 16,000 people about 85 miles west of San Antonio. The shooting came four years after a gunman fatally shot 10 people at Santa Fe High School in the Houston area.
President Joe Biden in a Tuesday night news conference decried “another massacre” that had left pain parents in unfathomable pain: “To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away,” he said.
Biden also called for a renewed push for gun control measures, lamenting the lack of progress despite repeated shootings.
“Why are we willing to live with this carnage?” he said. “Time to turn this pain into action.”
In Uvalde Tuesday, anxious parents were reuniting with surviving children all afternoon, with some seen in photos breaking down in tears near the school.
It was not immediately clear how many people, in addition to the dead, were injured in the shooting. Arredondo said there were “several injuries.”
The school teaches students in second, third and fourth grades, he said.
“Families are being notified and we are providing services to them,” he said of those who lost children. “We want to keep all our families in the prayers.”
Multiple law enforcement agencies including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were on scene Tuesday afternoon.
Outside the school, news video showed police in body armor, agents in FBI jackets, ambulances and yellow tape stretched around the property.
“We are aware of this tragic incident,” FBI Special Agent Carmen Portillo said in a statement. “At this time, it’s too soon to determine the extent of our involvement.”
Earlier, the district said that all schools in the district were locked down because of gunshots in the area.
Robb Elementary School has an enrollment of just under 600 students.
There were 249 shootings on school grounds last year – more than any other year since at least 1970 – and 137 so far this year, said David Riedman, lead researcher at the K-12 School Shooting Database at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security.
Vice President Kamala Harris said Tuesday that American leaders need to take action to ensure another incident like the Uvalde school shooting does not happen again.
First Lady Jill Biden Tweeted: “Lord, enough. Little children and their teacher. Stunned. Angry. Heartbroken.”
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg asked residents on Twitter to join the city in flying flags at half-staff to remember lives lost. “Pray for the lost, their families, and Uvalde,” he wrote.
Contributing: The Associated Press; Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY
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