Before an 18-year-old man purchased two rifles and opened fire in an elementary school in Uvalde, killing 21 people, he showed “aggressive” behavior and “immediate” red flags, classmates told ABC News.
Three juniors at Uvalde High School spoke with reporter Matt Gutman following Tuesday’s attack at Robb Elementary School in UCISD, where 19 students and two adults were killed.
The shooter, identified as 18-year-old student Salvador Ramos, went to the elementary school in body armor after taking aim at his grandmother, authorities said. After he made his way inside a fourth-grade classroom, he opened fire with an AR-15, barricading himself and shooting at anyone in his way, according to Lt. Christopher Olivarez with DPS. He was eventually fatally shot by officers.
Gunman sent messages to German teen before shooting
According to messages reviewed by ABC News, Ramos had sent a string of messages to a 15-year-old girl in Germany, who he met on the social media site Yubo. In them, he detailed how he shot his grandmother and was heading to the school for his next target.
In the messages, the gunman said he had an argument with his grandmother before texting “I shot my grandmother in the head” and immediately following that message with “ima go shoot up a elementary school rn,” according to ABC News.
A screenshot reviewed by ABC News revealed the teen from Germany had not replied to Ramos’ messages until news broke about the deadly mass shooting.
The 15-year-old girl told the New York Times she asked a friend in the U.S. about contacting authorities after seeing the news.
“Maybe I could’ve changed the outcome... just could never guess that he’d actually do this,” the girl told the New York Times.
Law enforcement sources told ABC News those messages with the German teen are now part of the investigation.
Gov. Greg Abbott referenced similar messages but called them Facebook posts that were actually “one-to-one text messages,” a Meta spokesperson confirmed to ABC News. The social media company discovered the messages after the shooting and is working with law enforcement, the spokesperson said.
“Evil swept across Uvalde yesterday. Anyone who shoots his grandmother in the face has to have evil in his heart,” Abbott said at a news conference Wednesday. “But it is far more evil for someone to gun down little kids.”
Abbott said that Ramos had no known mental health issues and no known criminal history.
Classmates say gunman showed signs of aggression
However, his classmates said that Ramos showed repeated signs of aggressive behavior, like wanting to start fights and sending intimidating messages on social media.
Yarelli Vasquez, 17, said that she worked with him at Whataburger and while he was quiet, it was “kind of common” for him to make threatening remarks.
“He was very quiet... didn’t really have a lot of friends, so he kept to himself a lot of the time,” she said. “I remember an interaction we had with this couple that worked there ... he told the boyfriend that he wanted to fight his girlfriend for no reason.”
The incident didn’t escalate to anything physical, but she said it was “still weird.”
Crystal Foutz, 17, added that he would boast and be “aggressive for no reason.”
“I would see them (TikTok videos) all the time and they would be like, ‘I could fight anyone, none of y’all can touch me ... I’m untouchable,’” she said.
Other social media posts showed him boxing or training for fighting, or with knives and guns. Once, he showed up at school with deep cuts on his face.
When classmates asked him what happened, he told them “I did it myself because I like how it looks,” Vasquez said.
He rarely attended school and didn’t socialize outside of school, they said. While he did express “eerie” behavior, they said they didn’t expect him to reach this level of violence.
“Like this still doesn’t feel real. It feels like I’m in a dream, like still this entire day,” said Keanna Baxter, 17.
Other classmates told The Washington Post that he was bullied over a childhood speech impediment.
Ramos purchased guns legally after 18th birthday
Steve McCraw, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told ABC News that Ramos recently and legally bought two AR-15-style rifles at Oasis Outback, a federally licensed store located three miles from Robb Elementary.
One of the guns was purchased on May 17, the day after his 18th birthday, according to ATF. Ramos also bought 375 rounds of ammunition and then purchased the second rifle last Friday.
A general manager at Oasis Outback told ABC News that he is working with law enforcement, but would not comment on whether the shooter did or did not purchase his guns there. The store is located three miles away from the elementary school.
Days before the attack, an Instagram account investigators say apparently belonged to Ramos posted a photo of a hand holding an ammunition magazine.
On the day Ramos bought his second weapon, the account carried a photo of two AR-style rifles.
In that post, Ramos apparently tagged another Instagram user, one with more than 10,000 followers, asking her to share the picture with her followers.
“I barely know you and u tag me in a picture with some guns,” replied the Instagram user, who has since removed her profile. “It’s just scary.”
On the morning of the attack, the account linked to the gunman replied: “I’m about to.”
Officers found one of the rifles in Ramos’ truck, and the other in the school, according to the briefing given to lawmakers. Ramos was wearing a tactical vest, but it had no hardened body-armor plates inside, lawmakers were told. He also dropped a backpack containing several magazines full of ammunition near the school entrance.
Investigators spent Tuesday night serving search warrants for his telephone and other records and attempting to contact his relatives.
His grandfather, Rolando Reyes, 72, said he had no idea his grandson had purchased those weapons. He said his grandson had been living with them since February or March because he had had a falling out with his mother. He said he took his grandson to work sometimes, as Ramos did not know how to drive, and that he was very quiet, but he did not seem violent.