By Lucia Leal
Uvalde, Texas, May 25 (EFE).- The mainly Hispanic population of Uvalde, Texas, on Wednesday began to get some answers about the worst massacre in a US school in a decade, although gaps remain in public knowledge about the motivations of the shooter.
While some relatives of the 19 children and two teachers killed in the shooting on Tuesday were receiving therapy at a community center, Texas authorities raised the number of wounded to 17 and shed more light on the tragedy.
“This is a very unified community. Everyone knows everyone else. Everyone knew that this boy (the shooter),” local resident Laura de la Cruz, who knew one of the murdered girls at the school, told EFE in an interview.
The local police on Wednesday revealed that all the people killed in the massacre were in the same fourth grade classroom, where the attacker armed with an AR-15 assault rifle he had bought legal just days ago barricaded himself and opened fire.
Before entering the school, Salvador Ramos, 18, shot his grandmother, with whom he was living in Uvalde, in the face and she is hospitalized in serious condition. Then, he got into her vehicle and crashed it into a ditch near the school, authorities said.
Ramos, who was shot to death by a Border Patrol agent responding to the report of an active shooter at the school, wrote three private messages on Facebook, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott revealed at a press conference on Wednesday.
In the first message he said he was going to shoot his grandmother, in the second one he said he had done so and in the third, posted a quarter hour before the school massacre, he wrote: “I’m going to shoot an elementary school.”
So far, there has been no confirmation that Ramos had a history of mental problems, and he did not have any criminal record, although Abbott emphasized that he had been bullied at school and had, in effect, dropped out.
The governor said that the only new element that is resulting in mass shootings is “the status of mental health in our society.”
Democratic Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke, publicly rebuked Abbot at the press conference for putting the emphasis on mental health and not on the need to get greater control of firearms in US society.
O’Rourke said in remarks to reporters after being ejected from the meeting that people should now be focused on the fact that the gunman, “who just turned 18, bought an AR-15 and took it into an elementary school and shot kids in the face and killed them,” calling the weapon a rifle designed to kill enemy soldiers on the battlefield.
President Joe Biden, who will travel in the coming days to Texas along with first lady Dr. Jill Biden to offer support to the families of the victims, demanded that Congress once again ban assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines, as it did between 1994 and 2004, but conservative lawmakers continue to oppose any measure that would place even the smallest limits on the “right to bear arms.”
In the Senate in Washington, the head of the Republican minority, Mitch McConnell, made it clear on Wednesday that his stance on gun control has not changed, lamenting the loss of life at the school without linking it to firearms.
The National Rifle Association, the pressure group that has been instrumental in creating the obstructionism among Republicans to any gun regulation, confirmed on Wednesday that it is still intending to hold its annual conference on the weekend in Houston, despite requests that it be canceled in the wake of the massacre.
Inaction was the only tangible response of the US Congress to the shooting in the worst school shooting in recent US history, with 20 kids and six teachers being killed at a 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
Many people in Uvalde said they were confident that greater attention would be paid to the problem of school shootings this time around, despite the fact that this year there have been 212 mass shootings – more than one per day – according to the Gun Violence Archive, an independent organization that documents incidents of armed violence.
The identities of more than half the dead in the massacre were also made public on Wednesday, with the majority of them being Hispanic.
Uvalde is a city of about 16,000 residents, 82 of whom are Latinos.
Among the dead were teachers Eva Mireles, 44, and Irma Garcia, who died trying to protect the children in their classroom.