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DPS: 19 students, 2 adults dead in Uvalde grade school shooting

Patricia Lim
Children get on a school bus as law enforcement personnel guard the scene of a suspected shooting near Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, U.S. May 24, 2022. REUTERS/Marco Bello

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The Texas Department of Public Safety reported that 19 students and two adults were dead following a shooting on Tuesday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. The suspect was also dead.

Sgt. Erick Estrada, a DPS spokesman, updated the death toll in an interview with CNN.

Gov. Greg Abbott said the 18-year-old suspect lived in Uvalde, and it was not immediately clear how he died.

Meanwhile, in a brief news conference, officials in Uvalde said the suspect apparently acted alone. Officials took no questions and gave few details.

Estrada also explained that the suspect crashed a vehicle in a ditch near the school. He exited the vehicle with a rifle and attempted to enter the school. He was engaged by law enforcement but was able to enter the school.

Abbott said the shooter entered the school with a handgun and possibly a rifle. Estrada said the suspect entered several classrooms and started shooting.

A statement from the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday evening explained that "U.S. Border Patrol Agents responded to a law enforcement request for assistance re an active shooter situation inside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. Upon entering the building, Agents & other law enforcement officers faced gun fire from the subject, who was barricaded inside."

The statement added that the agents and other law enforcement officers "put themselves between the shooter and children on the scene to draw the shooter’s attention away from potential victims and save lives."

At least one agent was wounded in the firefight, DHS reported. Other agents, both on and off duty, arrived to help move students away from the scene, reunite them with their parents and provide medical care..

"It is being reported that the subject shot his grandmother right before he went into the school," Abbott said. "I have no further information about the connection between those two shootings."

Uvalde Memorial Hospital said it treated several students in its ER.

University Health in San Antonio said it treated at least four patients. On Tuesday evening, it tweeted that 66-year-old woman and a 10-year-old girl were listed in critical condition, a 10-year-old girl was listed in good condition and a 9-year-old girl was listed in fair condition.

The Justice Department said Tuesday night that FBI and ATF agents were part of the investigation.

'Felt like I was having a heart attack'

The residents of Uvalde turned to prayer on Tuesday as they searched for answers to the tragedy. Within hours of the shooting, a prayer vigil was underway at the Getty Street Church of Christ, not far from the elementary school.

The church's outreach minister, John Juhasz, said congregants prayed for the families of the victims, the medical response teams, and even the shooter.

"I don't believe that somebody is just born evil," he said. "I believe that is just the way they turn because they get embittered to the world."

He said residents must love one another and set aside their differences to heal from the shooting in the days, months, and years ahead.

Erika Escamilla's niece attends Robb Elementary School. She said her niece told her how teachers reacted to the report of a shooter in their school: locking doors, turning off lights, and telling children to get down.

"My niece was crying to me, and she was saying that she heard the guy cussing," Escamilla said. "She heard like loud yelling, and she heard him cussing, and she heard a lot of loud bangs -- the gun shots."

Escamilla that her niece "just put her hands over her ears and got down into a ball and she said, 'Tia, it felt like I was having a heart attack. I was so scared I did not know what to do.' "

Escamilla said the experience was something a 9 or 10 year old should never have to endure.

'My heart was broken today'

Robb Elementary School has an enrollment of just under 600 students. It is part of the Uvalde Consolidated School District.

Superintendent Hal Harrell said that classes at the school were canceled for the rest of the school year, and grief counseling was available on Wednesday morning for students, staff, and community members.

"Again, my heart was broken today," he said. "We're a small community, and we'll need your prayers to get us through this."

Teachers will report to work on all campuses, expect for Robb Elementary. They were directed by the superintendent to attend grief counseling at the town's civic center.

Teachers at all schools in the district put their classes in lockdown under administration orders as a precaution.

It was unclear if graduation ceremonies — scheduled on May 27 — would continued as planned.

Uvalde is about 85 miles west of San Antonio and about 70 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.

Emergency blood drives have been set up in the Uvalde area.The South Texas Blood & Tissue is hosting an emergency blood drive from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday at Herby Ham Activity Center, 248 FM 3447 in Uvalde. The drive is accepting walk-ins. University Health in San Antonio is encouraging blood donations at its donor room at University Hospital, 4502 Medical Dr. in San Antonio.

In San Antonio, the Harlandale, Edgewood and Southwest school districts announced on Tuesday that all schools would see increased security measures, including more security officers.

The San Antonio Police Department said it was sending resources to assist with the investigation, including members of SWAT and crime scene investigators.

'We have to act'

President Joe Biden ordered flags at the White House and other government buildings to be flown at half-staff to honor the victims of the Uvalde shooting.

In an address to the nation on Tuesday evening, Biden said he hoped he wouldn’t have to speak about another school shooting when he took office. He challenged lawmakers to stand up to the gun manufacturers and their allies.

“As a nation we have to ask when in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?" he said. "When in God’s name will we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done? I am sick and tired of it. We have to act. And don’t’ tell me we can’t have an impact on this carnage.”

Biden didn’t outline a specific proposal or mention a forthcoming executive action he’d take to curb gun violence. But he told lawmakers who are standing in the way of gun-control laws that the nation will remember who they are.

“It’s time to turn this pain into action for every parent, for every citizen of this country. We have to make it very clear to every elected official in this country it’s time to act,” he said. “It’s time for those who obstruct or delay or block the common sense gun laws, we need to let you know that we will not forget. We can do so much more.”

Biden, who was traveling back to the U.S. from Asia when he received news of the shooting, said that the nation stood out for its mass shootings in a world where mental health and other issues are also prevalent.

“What struck me was these kinds of mass shootings rarely happens anywhere else in the world. Why? They have mental health problems, they have domestic disputes in other countries, they have people who are lost,” he said. “But these kinds of mass shootings never happen with the kind of frequency they happen in America. Why? Why are we willing to live with this carnage?”

The Texas Newsroom's Sergio Martinez-Beltran, Gabrielle Muñoz, Julian Aguilar and Becky Fogel contributed to this report.

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