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Uvalde School Shooting

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What We Know: Children, Teachers Killed in Attack on Texas Elementary School

A lone gunman killed 21 people at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, yesterday. At least 19 students and two adults were killed, as well as the gunman.

Details about the attack, the victims, and the shooter are still emerging, but here’s what we know so far.

The Location

Uvalde, Texas, is a small community of around 16,000 people about 85 miles west of San Antonio and 80 miles from the border with Mexico.

The attack occurred at Robb Elementary, just two days before summer break was about to begin. The school teaches students in grades 2 through 4 (ages 7-10, generally), and 600 students attended, according to NPR.

The rest of the school year for the district is done, and all other school events are canceled, said Hal Harrell, superintendent for the Uvalde Consolidated School District, in a press conference yesterday.

The Attack

Around 11:32 a.m. local time on Tuesday, 24 May, a gunman wearing body armor and armed with a handgun and an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle with high-capacity magazines opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Earlier that day, the suspected shooter shot his own grandmother, who is in critical condition, and then drove to Robb Elementary, where he crashed his car and entered the school.

The shooter then attacked a fourth-grade classroom, and children crawled through windows and hid in a nearby funeral home to escape, The Washington Post reported.

A U.S. Border Patrol official was nearby when the shooting began, and the agent ran into the school without waiting for backup to shoot and kill the gunman, who was behind a barricade. Two border agents were reportedly shot in an exchange with the gunman during the attack, the BBC reported. Both are in stable condition.

The Victims

At least 19 children and two teachers were killed in the attack, and more victims were injured. The Uvalde Memorial Hospital posted on social media that 13 children had been taken to the hospital “via ambulances or buses.” Some critical patients were airlifted to San Antonio.

Parents and family members waited hours at a local civic center to learn whether their loved ones were safe.

“Earlier, cries and sobs could be heard from outside as family members who gathered there received the devastating news that their children had been killed,” the BBC reported. “Others were asked to give DNA samples to help identify some of the young victims.”

Few victim names have been released so far, but according to the Post, teacher Eva Mireles, 44; student Xavier Lopez, 10; and student Jose Flores, 10, are among the deceased.

The Suspect

Texas Governor Greg Abbott identified the gunman as Salvador Ramos, 18, a resident of Uvalde. He recently turned 18, did not have a criminal record, and bought his weapons immediately after his birthday on 16 May, according to sources briefed on early findings from an investigation into the suspect.

Friends of the alleged gunman told news outlets that Ramos’s behavior had started to change in disturbing ways, such as cutting his own face, egging people’s cars, shooting at random people with a BB gun at night, and posting photos on social media of automatic rifles that he wished to own. Friends and relatives told the Post that the suspect was lonely, bullied over a childhood speech impediment, and suffered a difficult home life.

Late last week, Ramos posted images of two rifles that he referred to as “my gun pics.”

The State of School Shootings

Since the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, more than 311,000 U.S. students have been exposed to gun violence on their school campuses, The Washington Post reported. Immediately after in-person classes resumed in 2021 following COVID-19-related restrictions, school violence came back with a vengeance—there were 42 acts of campus gun violence in 2021, smashing previous records. In 2022 so far, there have been at least 24 acts of gun violence on K-12 school campuses during regular hours—28 people were killed across these incidents.

According to mass shooting expert and UCLA professor Ron Avi Astor, violence in schools has declined for years—with the exception of mass shootings.

“If you look over the last 20 years, really since Columbine, there’s been a massive, massive, massive ... decrease in victimization and violence in schools,” Astor told NPR. “When you look at bullying, and you look at, even weapon use ... the magnitude of the reductions is like 50 to 70 percent depending on the issue, particularly for California. But, that's true nationally in almost all the states. So, some of the stuff we were doing for regular school safety and school victimization, things actually have been working for all ethnic groups, all ages, genders. There’s been big reductions and that’s actually a story that doesn't get out very often.”

He noted, however, that while the connection of school safety and bullying or other behavioral issues has worked for many instances of school violence, mass shootings are different.

Researchers speculate that a spike in gun sales during the pandemic, climbing rates of overall violence, and the stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic and other events may have been factors in the rise in shootings.

In a report released earlier this week, the FBI designated 61 shootings in 2021 as active shooter incidents, defined as incidents where “one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.” The tally does not include incidents involving gang violence, self-defense, or “contained residential or domestic disputes.”

The FBI noted that there was a 52.5 percent increase in active shooter incidents between 2020 and 2021, and a 33 percent increase from 2019 to 2020. Excluding the shooters, 243 people were killed or wounded in U.S. active shooter incidents in 2021.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 212 mass shootings so far this year.

How to Help

Local hospitals and organizations in Texas—including University Health in San Antonio and the Herby Ham Community Center in Uvalde—are asking for people to donate blood to help shooting victims.

You can also support verified fundraisers to help victims and loved ones. GoFundMe established a hub of verified fundraisers, including one organized by VictimsFirst—a network of mass shooting survivors and their relatives—to provide victims’ families with no-strings-attached cash payments.

The San Antonio Legal Services Association is also seeking volunteer attorneys who are licensed to practice in Texas, NPR reported.

Resources for Security Professionals

ASIS International has multiple resources for security professionals seeking to improve preparedness and response to active assailant incidents. In addition to the ASIS Workplace Violence and Active Assailant: Prevention, Intervention, and Response standard and the new Essentials of Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention Programs certificate, ASIS provides many free resources and articles through its topic pages on Soft Target and Active Shooter and School Safety.

ASIS members can also join and participate in the School Safety and Security Community through ASIS Connects. 

Family members of victims from previous school shootings—especially the 2012 massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School—have founded organizations and nonprofits that provide resources, training, and guidance for schools and security professionals on how to detect early signs of violence and respond accordingly. Learn more at Sandy Hook Promise and Safe and Sound Schools.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) also provides many resources for school security professionals, including threat assessment models and school security guides.