Nineteen students and two adults were killed on Tuesday after a shooter opened fire at an elementary school west of San Antonio, Texas, officials said.
The attack unfolded at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, a small Hill Country town with a population of just more than 16,000. The victims were transported to hospials in Uvalde and San Antonio following the shooting. The elementary school, which serves students in grades two through four, is 90 per cent Hispanic.
“Texans across the state are grieving for the victims of this senseless crime and for the community of Uvalde,” governor Greg Abbott said in a statement. “Cecilia and I mourn this horrific loss and we urge all Texans to come together to show our unwavering support to all who are suffering.”
According to Mr Abbott, the alleged shooter, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, is dead. He said that it is “believed that responding officers killed him”. The gunman killed two adults, including at least one teacher.
Mr Ramos was reportedly a student at Uvalde High School. Mr Abbott said that he also shot his grandmother on Tuesday morning before carrying a handgun and potentially a rifle into the elementary school.
Before Mr Abbott addressed the media, Uvalde Memorial Hospital told ABC News that two children had died from presumed gunshot wounds. The hospital also said that a further 13 students were undergoing treatment in the emergency room and added that a 45-year-old was admitted to hospital after being grazed by one of the bullets.
University Health in San Antonio said it was caring for two people harmed in the shooting, a child and an adult.
Uvalde mayor Don McLaughlin did not confirm the number of casualties, but told ABC News that “this is a very bad situation”.
“There is an active shooter at Robb Elementary. Law enforcement is on site,” the school wrote in a post on Facebook earlier on Tuesday. “Your cooperation is needed at this time by not visiting the campus.”
Uvalde parents have been asked not to go to the school, but to meet their children at the Uvalde Civic Center for “reunification”.
“Parents are asked to pick up students at the regular dismissal times at the child’s campus,” the school wrote in a Facebook post. “There will be no bus transportation. Officers will be on site to escort students to the parents cars. Parents please be patient as lines will be long.”
A lockdown was first reported by The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District at 11.43am local time [17.43 GMT].
“Please know at this time all campuses are under a Lockdown Status due to gunshots in the area. The students and staff are safe in the buildings,” the district told parents in a message.
The shooting in Uvalde is the largest mass shooting of the year so far in the US, eclipsing the mass shooting perpetrated at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, just 10 days ago. Ten people, all Black, were killed in that attack. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have 43 mass shootings in the US during May alone. There has already been 27 school shootings so far this year.
The shooting is the deadliest ever at a Texas school. It comes four years and six days after a gunman killed 10 people, eight students and two teachers, at Santa Fe High School outside of Houston.
A spokesperson for Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said that Mr Mayorkas has been briefed on the situation.
Mr Biden was vice president during the last major push for federal gun control legislation, which came after a gunman killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Mr Abbott, an opponent of stricter gun control measures, last year signed a law allowing anyone in the state of Texas age 21 or older to carry a handgun without a permit. He is scheduled to address the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting in Houston later this week.
On the Senate floor on Tuesday afternoon, Sen Chris Murphy of Connecticut put the situtation bluntly.
“What are we doing?” he said. “Just days after a shooter walked into a grocery store to gun down African American patrons, we have another Sandy Hook on our hands.”
President Biden told the nation on Tuesday night it was time to “turn this pain into action” following a mass shooting at a Texas elementary school that killed at least 21 people.
“Why are we willing to live with this carnage?” he said, hoarsely and visibly emotional. “Where in God’s name is our backbone, to have the courage to deal with this and stand up to the [gun] lobbies?”