Fourteen children and one teacher have been killed at a shooting at an elementary school west of San Antonio, Texas, the state’s governor said on Tuesday.
Texas governor Greg Abbott said Salvador Romas, an 18-year-old male resident of the city of Uvalde, had entered Robb Elementary School and opened fire earlier in the day. “He shot and killed horrifically, incomprehensibly, 14 students and killed a teacher,” Abbott said at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
“Texans across the state are grieving for the victims of this senseless crime and for the community of Uvalde,” Abbott said in a statement.
The shooter was armed with a handgun and possibly a rifle, the governor said. Abbott said the shooter was dead, believed to have been killed by responding officers. Two responding officers were also struck by rounds of ammunition but did not suffer serious injuries.
Abbott said it had been reported the suspect shot his grandmother before going to the school.
Pete Arredondo, chief of police for Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, confirmed that a “mass casualty incident” took place just after 11:30am local time at Robb Elementary, which has children in the second, third and fourth grades.
The suspect is believed to have acted alone, and safety measures have been taken for the rest of the school district.
Uvalde is a small town in south-west Texas with a population of about 15,000, approximately 50 miles from the US-Mexico border and 80 miles from San Antonio. About 90 per cent of students at Robb Elementary are Hispanic and most of the students are considered “economically disadvantaged” by the state, according to Texas government data.
The shooting in Texas comes less than two weeks after a teenager shot and killed 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.
President Joe Biden had been briefed on the “horrific” shooting in Texas, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre wrote in a tweet, and will speak about the incident later on Tuesday when he has returned from a trip to Asia. “His prayers are with the families impacted by this awful event,” she wrote. Biden also ordered American flags be flown at half-staff on all public buildings until sunset on May 28 out of respect for the victims.
The Texas shooting triggered immediate calls for tougher gun control legislation from Democrats in Congress, who have tried in vain to pass stricter measures for years but run encountered steadfast Republican opposition.
“I implore, beg, my Republican colleagues to join Democrats in finally making changes to our gun laws to help prevent Americans from re-living this gun tragedy far too often. We cannot continue to sit on our hands and allow innocent lives to be lost,” said Dick Durbin, the Illinois senator and chair of the Senate judiciary committee.
Chris Murphy, a Democratic senator who represents Connecticut — where a gunman killed 26 people, including 20 children and 6 members of the staff, at the Sandy Hook elementary school in 2012 — delivered an emotional speech on the Senate floor criticising his Republican colleagues. “Why are you here?,” he asked. “Why do you spend all this time running for the United States Senate . . . if your answer is as the slaughter increases, as our kids run for their lives: we do nothing?”
Ted Cruz, the Republican senator from Texas, expressed no interest in new gun control measures in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. “We know from past experience one of the most effective tools for keeping kids safe is armed law enforcement on the campus,” he said.
Additional reporting by Justin Jacobs in Houston