A Texas Department of Public Security official said the 18-year-old suspected gunman who killed 21 at a school on Tuesday appeared to have walked unobstructed into the building before the incident unfolded.
Victor Escalon, the South Texas Regional Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told reporters Thursday that the door at Robb Elementary School, where the shooting occurred, was left unlocked when suspect Salvador Ramos entered. Before that, according to Escalon, Ramos crashed a pickup truck and fired shots at two people outside a funeral home.
Then, he walked into Robb Elementary at 11:40 a.m. local time and fired a number of shots, Escalon said. Ramos was not confronted by a school police officer, and media reports making that claim are inaccurate, he added.
“We will find out as much as we can why it was unlocked, or maybe it (the door) was locked,” the official said at a news conference. “But right now, it appears it was unlocked.”
Ramos walked down a hallway and walked into a classroom after entering, the official said. Previously, authorities said that he opened fire inside two connecting classrooms, killing 19 students and two teachers before he was shot by an officer.
“Four minutes later, local police departments, Uvalde Police Department, the Independent School District Police Department are inside, making entry,” Escalon said. “They hear gunfire, they take rounds, they move back, get cover. And during that time, they approach where the suspect is at.”
Authorities called for backup and tried to help students and teachers escape the school, he added. Responding officers and deputies eventually entered the classroom and shot and killed Ramos, Escalon said.
During a news conference on Wednesday, state officials said he was killed by a Border Patrol agent.
“We’re going to find out. With all the different agencies that are involved, we’re working every angle that’s available. We won’t stop until we get all the answers that we possibly can,” said Escalon.
Earlier, Uvalde Police Chief Daniel Rodriguez issued a statement saying officers responded to the mass shooting “within minutes” amid criticism and allegations that police delayed trying to engage with the gunman.
“It is important for our community to know that our Officers responded within minutes alongside Uvalde [school] Officers,” Rodriguez said. “Responding UPD Officers sustained gun-shot wounds from the suspect.”
Rodriguez noted that there are “questions” about “the details of what occurred,” adding that “answer[s] will come fast enough during this trying time, but rest assured that with the completion of the full investigation, I will be able to answer all the questions that we can.”
“The initial group of officers that were on scene, at that point, they were at a point of disadvantage because the shooter was able to barricade himself inside that classroom. There was not sufficient manpower at that time and their main, their primary focus was preserve any further loss of life,” spokesperson Lt. Chris Olivarez with the Department of Public Safety told CNN. “So they started breaking windows around the school, and trying to rescue, evacuate children and teachers while that was going on.”
The suspect purchased several firearms earlier this month after he turned 18, State Sen. John Whitmire told news outlets. He also purchased about 375 rounds of ammunition, the senator said, citing law enforcement officials. Those guns were purchased legally from a federally licensed firearms dealer.
Before the rampage, Ramos shot and seriously wounded his grandmother, said officials. Reports this week indicated that he messaged a stranger online and said he would shoot up a school after firing upon his grandmother.