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Texas community struggles with second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history

ULVALDE-NPR-REAX-1
Billy Calzada
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AP
Kladys Castellón prays during a vigil for the victims of a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday, May 24, 2022.

Updated May 25, 2022 at 12:21 AM ET

The number of people confirmed killed in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, has risen to 21, according to The Associated Press.

Earlier, Sgt. Erick Estrada of the Texas Department of Public Safety told CNN that the children were likely between the ages of 7 and 9, and two adults are among the dead. The shooter is also deceased.

Estrada also offered new details about the events leading up to the horrific slaughter at Robb Elementary School, about 85 miles south of San Antonio.

According to calls to law enforcement beginning at around 11:20 a.m. local time, the gunman, who has been identified as an 18-year-old male resident of Uvalde, shot his grandmother at her home before heading toward the school in a large, dark truck. He crashed the vehicle in a ditch near the small campus.

Callers told law enforcement that he was seen exiting the truck carrying "some sort of rifle," a backpack, and wearing body armor. The gunman made his way into the school building through a south facing door and began shooting, Estrada said.

It is unclear if the shooter had a specific target or targets in minds.

Police walk near Robb Elementary School following a shooting, Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. A gunman killed 14 children and a teacher, the governor said.
Dario Lopez-Mills / AP
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AP
Police walk near Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, following a shooting Tuesday.

U.S. Border Patrol agents were among the law enforcement who responded, exchanging gunfire with the gunman who had barricaded himself inside, a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said. At least one Border Patrol agent was wounded.

It is believed that a border patrol agent shot and killed the suspect, a Border Patrol official tells NPR.

The school enrolls about 600 students in second, third and fourth grades. At least one of the adult victims was a teacher at Robb Elementary. Thursday was meant to be the last day of the school year, according to the school's website.

The mass shooting comes just 10 days after a white gunman opened fire at a Tops supermarket in a Black neighborhood of Buffalo, N.Y. Ten people were killed in that incident.

President Biden says it's time for lawmakers to stand up to the gun lobby

President Biden called for lawmakers to "stand up to the gun lobby."
Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images
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Getty Images
President Biden called for lawmakers to "stand up to the gun lobby."

"I had hoped when I became president I would not have to do this — again," President Joe Biden told the nation in an address from the White House on Tuesday night.

"Another massacre. Uvalde, Texas. An elementary school. Beautiful, innocent second, third and fourth graders. And how many scores of little children who witnessed what happened — see their friends die, as if they're in a battlefield, for God's sake. They'll live with it the rest of their lives," he said between heavy sighs.

Seemingly tired and frustrated, Biden continued: "What struck me was these kinds of mass shootings rarely happen anywhere else in the world. Why?"

"They have mental health problems. They have domestic disputes in other countries. They have people who are lost, 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?"

He also had stern words for those who continue to block gun control overhaul efforts, saying, "As a nation, we have to ask, when in God's name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?"

"When in God's name will we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?" Biden said, before noting that in the 10 years since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, which occurred when he was vice president, there have been over 900 incidents of gunfire reported on school grounds.

"We have to act," he declared. "And don't tell me we can't have an impact on this carnage."

Throughout the last two decades, lawmakers have pushed gun control policy changes after mass shootings but have struggled to get the votes necessary to pass the Senate, with Republicans steadfastly opposed.

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

Gov. Greg Abbott says the state of Texas is in mourning

"When parents drop their kids off at school they have every expectation to know that they're going to be able to pick their child up when that school day ends," Abbott said.

"There are families who are in mourning right now, and the state of Texas is in mourning with them for the reality that these parents are not going to be able to pick up their children."

Superintendent Hal Harrell said the rest of the school year was canceled. "My heart was broken today," he told reporters Tuesday evening. "We're a small community and we'll need your prayers to get us through this."

Injured victims are still being treated, some have been transferred to San Antonio

Officials at University Memorial Hospital in Uvalde confirmed two individuals were dead on arrival. They offered no additional details about the deceased.

Thirteen children were transported to the hospital, two of whom have been transferred to facilities in San Antonio, more than 80 miles away.

A 66-year-old woman and a 10-year-old girl were also airlifted to University Hospital in San Antonio. The hospital confirmed that the woman is in critical condition.

Officials offer details about the shooting

Law enforcement personnel stand outside Robb Elementary School following a shooting on Tuesday in Uvalde, Texas.
Dario Lopez-Mills / AP
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AP
Law enforcement personnel stand outside Robb Elementary School following a shooting on Tuesday in Uvalde, Texas.

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez told CNN that the 66-year-old is the shooter's grandmother.

"She is still hanging on," the senator said, referring to the grandmother's condition.

Uvalde police department officials announced that the suspected gunman was taken into custody at 1:06 p.m. local time — approximately an hour and a half after an active shooter was first reported.

The shooting at the school began at 11:32 a.m. Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District officials said all local schools went into lockdown as news of the active shooter spread.

Student and teachers were evacuated to the city's civic center, where officials are now offering grief counseling on Wednesday.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: May 24, 2022 at 11:00 PM CDT
An earlier version of this story mistakenly said Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, is about 85 miles south of San Antonio. It's 85 miles west of San Antonio.

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