UVALDE, Texas ( Associated Press) — Javier Cazares bolted toward his daughter’s school when he heard there was a shooting, leaving his truck running with the door open before running into the schoolyard. In his haste, he forgot to take his gun.
Cazares, an Army veteran, spent the next agonizing 35 to 45 minutes sifting through children fleeing Robb Elementary School looking for his 9-year-old daughter, Jacklyn. At the same time, he longed to go in and look for her himself, and was increasingly irritated, along with other parents, that the police were not doing more to stop the teenager who had holed up in a classroom and was murdering a the children.
“Many of us argued with the police: ‘You all have to go in there. Everyone has to do their job,’” Cazares recalled. “We were prepared to get down to business and rush in.”
In the end, 19 children and two teachers were shot to death in the roughly 80 minutes the shooter spent inside the school in Uvalde, Texas, a small, predominantly Latino community that sits among vegetable fields halfway between San Antonio and the city. border between the United States and Mexico.
This account of the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook School is based on a law enforcement timeline, recordings, and numerous interviews with Uvalde residents in the hours and days after the massacre.
The man authorities have identified as the attacker, Salvador Ramos, was up early on May 24, sending disturbing messages. Ramos had turned 18 just the week before and promptly purchased two AR-15-style rifles along with hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
In the pre-dawn hours in his grandparents’ shady neighborhood, just half a mile (800 meters) from the site that would become the site of a massacre, Ramos wrote to a woman via Instagram: “I’m about to ”. He also sent someone a private message on Facebook saying he was going to shoot his grandmother.
And in a matter of a few hours, it did.
Sometime after 11 am, a neighbor in his yard heard a gunshot and looked in that direction. He saw Ramos run out the front door of his grandparents’ house toward a pickup truck parked on the narrow street. The 18-year-old seemed scared and had trouble getting a Ford vehicle out of the parking lot, 82-year-old Gilbert Gallegos recalled.
In the end Ramos was able to pull away, his tires throwing a stream of gravel into the air. Moments later, his badly injured grandmother emerged from the single-story house, covered in blood.
“This is what he did,” she yelled, Gallegos recalled. “He shot me.”
Gallegos’ wife called 911 as he carried the injured woman to their backyard. As they hid and waited for the police, they heard more gunshots.