19 July 2022

Texas school shooter left trail of ominous warning signs, says report

19 July 2022

The gunman who killed 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, gave off so many warning signs that he was obsessed with violence and notoriety in the months before the attack that students began calling him “school shooter”, a report has revealed.

Salvador Ramos, 18, was once bullied in one of the same classrooms where the attack took place, according the interim report released by an investigative panel of the Texas House of Representatives.

And in the planning for the May 24 massacre, Ramos collected articles about the Buffalo, New York, supermarket shooting and played video games with a young student while quizzing him about the school schedule.

The investigative report that highlighted law enforcement’s bungled response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School has also provided the most in-depth account to date about missed red flags and possible motivations surrounding Ramos.

The gunman and walks down a hallway at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24 (Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District/Austin American-Statesman via AP/PA) (AP)

Despite many warning signs, he still managed to amass legally more than $5,000 (£4,100) in guns, ammunition and gear in the weeks leading up to the killings.

Just days before the attack, Ramos spoke out on social media of his plans to do something that would “put him all over the news”.

He wrote of a desire to kill himself, shared online videos of beheadings and violent sex, and sent footage of himself driving around with “someone he met on the internet” holding a plastic bag containing a dead cat and pointing BB guns at people out the window.

“The attacker became focused on achieving notoriety,” according the interim report released on Sunday. “He believed his TikTok and YouTube channels would be successful. The small number of views he received led him to tell those with whom he interacted that he was ‘famous’, that they were mere ‘randoms’ by comparison.”

The 77-page report — based on interviews with family members, testimony and data from Ramos’s phone — lays out a long trail of missed signals prior to the massacre but notes these clues were known only to “private individuals” and not reported to authorities.

It also found Ramos had no known ideological or political views that would have made his rantings more widely known.

The report traces the descent of a shy, quiet boy once thought by a teacher as a “wonderful student” with a “positive attitude” into a mass murderer who gave plenty of signs online and to family members that he was prone to violence as he amassed an arsenal of rifles, body armour and ammunition.

A former girlfriend told the FBI that she believed Ramos had been sexually assaulted by one of his mother’s boyfriends at an early age, the report said, but when Ramos told his mother at the time, she didn’t believe him.

Police officers and other first responders gather outside Robb Elementary School following the shooting in Uvalde (Dario Lopez-Mills/AP/PA) (AP)

Without assigning a specific motive, the report noted that Ramos talked about painful fourth-grade memories to an acquaintance weeks before the shooting.

Family members told investigators how Ramos had been bullied as a fourth-grader in one of the same linked classrooms where he carried out the attack. They said he faced ridicule over his stutter, short hair and for wearing the same clothing nearly every day.

At one point, the report said, a fellow student tied his shoelaces together and Ramos fell on his face, injuring himself. The report noted that Ramos was flagged by school officials as “at risk” but never received any special education services.

Failing grades soon were accompanied by frequent absences — more than 100 a year beginning in 2018. The report noted it was unclear if a school resource officer ever visited Ramos’s home.

Uvalde High School officials involuntarily withdrew him last autumn, when he had completed only the ninth grade. That was about the same time he moved out of his mother’s house and began living with his grandmother, just blocks from the elementary school.

You heard people joke and say, ‘He looks like a school shooter'

Months before the shooting, Ramos began contacting acquaintances with “vague but ominous messages” about doing something soon.

In March 2022, two months before the shooting, a student on Instagram told him that “people at school talk (expletive) about you and call you school shooter”.

The next month Ramos asked in a direct message on Instagram: “Are you still gonna remember me in 50-something days?” After the answer — “probably not” — Ramos replied: “Hmm alright we’ll see in may.“

Crystal Foutz, who attended school with Ramos, said he was frequently angry and gave off “vibes” like he could shoot up the place, though it was taken more as joke than serious.

“You heard people joke and say, ‘He looks like a school shooter’,” she said.

Ramos took jobs at two fast-food restaurants to save money for what he told acquaintances was “something big,” which family members assumed was his own apartment or car.

Instead it was guns and bullets, which he tried to get two people to buy for him while he was 17 and unable to obtain legally.

But on May 16, the gunman turned 18, and began purchasing firearms and ammunition, persuading an uncle to drive him to a gun store. He eventually spent more than $5,000 on two AR-style rifles, ammunition and other gear and with no criminal history or arrest, Ramos passed all background checks.

He had earlier written online “10 more days”, eliciting speculation from readers that he was planning to “shoot up a school or something” or commit “mass murder”.

He also spent time playing the children’s videogame Roblox with his cousin’s son, a student at the Robb Elementary, and “elicited from him details about his schedule and how lunch periods worked at the school”.

“I got a lil secret,” Ramos wrote on Snapchat to a German teenager he had befriended days before the May 24 shooting, adding that first he was waiting for something “being delivered” on Monday. His order of 1,740 hollow-point bullets that expand in bodies upon impact, more easily killing, arrived later that day.

“None of his online behavior was ever reported to law enforcement,” the report said, “and if it was reported by other users to any social media platform, it does not appear that actions were taken to restrict his access or to report him to authorities as a threat.”

Shortly before entering Robb Elementary, the gunman messaged the German teenager he had befriended earlier, posting that he had just shot his grandmother in the face and was about to “shoot up” an elementary school.

Not sure he was serious, the German teenager replied: “Cool.”

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