Update - the attorney for the teacher was alleged to have left the door propped open says - and a video confirms - that she kicked the rock she had placed to hold the door open away and pulled the door shut, thinking it would lock automatically.
By now, most of America has heard of Uvalde, the sleepy little Texas town on US 90 some eighty miles west of San Antonio and 60 miles east of Del Rio. For me, it’s a bit personal because, unlike most Americans, I’ve been there a few times. South of the Hill Country and north and east of the Rio Grande – the river’s “big bend” is west of Uvalde at Del Rio – Uvalde is east of the Chihuahuan Desert but it almost seems like a desert town, at least when coming from the west. My wife and I used to stop at the local HEB to pick up sandwich fixings while on our way to a camp on the Frio River north of Concan, a tiny community about 25 miles north of town. The Frio is a popular destination for people from all over Texas, including Uvalde, in the summer months. They go to the little camps to camp out and rent large tubes to float on the beautiful river. I’ve also driven through on US 90 and have flown into Garner Field. Needless to say, I was shocked when I learned there had been a school shooting there.
The Uvalde shooting is not the first one to strike a personal chord with me. Four years ago in 2018 a teenager in Santa Fe, Texas took his father’s shotgun and pistol to school and shot and killed several of his classmates. (The young man was so traumatized he hasn’t been adjudged capable of standing trial – the last I heard, he had no memory of what he had done.) In the Santa Fe case, the shooting was in the high school; in Uvalde, it was in one of the town’s two elementary schools. The Santa Fe school is familiar. The town sits on Texas 6, a highway running from the Houston western suburbs to Galveston. It runs just up the road from my house. We travel it most of the time whenever we go to Galveston and go right past the high school.
In both instances, the shooter was reported to have been the subject of bullying by his classmates. There appears to have been a girl involved in the Santa Fe shooting. One of the victims, a 16-year-old girl, was reported to have humiliated the young man just before the shooting. She is reported to have told others that she feared for her life. The Santa Fe shooter discriminated – he only shot people he didn’t like and spared those he did. Salvador Ramos, the Uvalde killer, apparently did not discriminate. There’s no known reason why he picked that particular school instead of the other elementary, the middle school or the high school.
At first, the Uvalde incident was misrepresented in the media. There was also confusion among the Texas law enforcement community. There were initial reports that a school police officer confronted the shooter and was wounded. However, it turns out he was not on the campus initially but quickly arrived and went after someone he thought was the shooter but who turned out to be a teacher. Some law officers were wounded a few minutes after the shooter entered the school. He fired at them through the locked door of the classroom where he did his damage. Then the media focused on parents who arrived and saw law enforcement personnel outside the school and – mistakenly – thought they weren’t doing anything. Parents became incensed and refused to obey law enforcement, who were trying to maintain order and access the situation around the school while other law enforcement personnel were inside the school confronting the shooter and removing children. Some parents were arrested for interfering with a law enforcement operation. Media put out reports that law enforcement did not go into the school for an hour. This isn’t true. There were claims that Ramos was outside shooting at the school for 10-12 minutes before he went in. This isn’t true either.
The Texas Department of Public Safety has established a timeline. At 11:27 a teacher opened one of the back doors for some reason. She apparently propped it open. (My wife is a teacher and I know that school doors automatically lock and can only be opened with a key. The teacher may have opened the door so the children could go outside to play after lunch but that is speculation on my part.) A minute later Ramos drove his grandmother’s truck through the fence and into a concrete drainage ditch. He got out of his truck and fired a couple of shots at two men in the parking lot of the funeral home across the street then ran (or walked) toward the school. The teacher saw him and realized what was happening; she went inside to her classroom to get her cell phone. She then called 911 to report the situation. However, in her haste, she failed to let the door come too and lock. Ramos found the open door and went in at 11:31, only three minutes after he crashed the truck, not twelve as a witness claimed. There were children close enough to hear him. They reported that he said, “Now what do we have here” when he found the open door. He went inside and found a classroom with children and opened fire. Audio reports indicate the firing lasted for some five minutes. It was during this time that the children were killed and wounded. One teacher, who was apparently in an adjoining classroom, was still alive. Police arrived at the classroom four minutes after the firing. They called out asking if anyone needed assistance. The teacher replied that she did, at which point Ramos shot her dead according to one of the surviving children.
Four local police entered the building and reached the classroom four minutes after Ramos entered. He fired at them and his bullets “grazed” two of them. Three others arrived shortly afterward. They went to work evacuating other classrooms. Other law enforcement arrived, including off-duty Border Patrol agents who lived in the town, some of whom had children in the building. One Border Patrol agent borrowed a local barber’s shotgun and went into the building and got his child. Nineteen law enforcement personnel, including school police, local police and Border Patrol, were in the building. Some state DPS personnel (state troopers) also arrived along with additional Border Patrol personnel. All told, some eighty Border Patrol personnel eventually arrived at the school. The chief of the independent school police assumed the role of on-scene commander since the school was his jurisdiction.
Since Ramos was no longer firing except sporadically at the officers through the door, the school chief decided that they now had a barricaded situation rather than an active shooter. Some children who were in the rooms made 911 calls asking for help, but for some reason those messages seem to have never reached the chief. The chief decided they should call for a SWAT team with tactical equipment to force entry. Part of the problem was that Ramos had locked the doors to the classroom and police were unable to force them open. Eventually, a janitor arrived with a key (the two teachers who had keys were in their classrooms dead.) The closest SWAT team was a Border Patrol team who had been trained to confront cartel members along the border. They finally arrived. Someone unlocked the door and they barged in and shot Ramos dead at roughly 12:50, an hour and twenty minutes after he entered the school, according to the timeline. The media has made much of DPS Chief Steven McCraw’s statement that the on-scene commander “made the wrong decision” without recognizing that he qualified that statement with “what we know now.” He also stated that “I was not here.”
Needless to say, the antigun lobby quickly blamed the shooting on Ramos’ ability to buy an AR-15 (or something similar) after his 18th birthday a week before. DPS revealed that he had tried to get his older sister to buy a rifle last September but she refused. DPS also revealed that Ramos had engaged in conversations on the Internet in which he hinted that he was planning a school shooting. In short, his ability to purchase the rifles at a local sporting goods store were only incidental to his plans. He could have obtained them elsewhere or if he was dead-set on killing a bunch of school kids, there were other ways to do it. The real issue is what prompted him to do it.
Ramos’ family and friends said he had been bullied or picked on all through school because of a speech impediment – he had a lisp and a stutter. After the Columbine, Colorado shooting, the FBI did a study of school shooters and discovered that a common factor was that they had been the subject of bullying at school. (Classmates denied they had bullied the Columbine shooters.) Bullying was a factor with Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook Shooter, and with Parkland, Florida shooter Nikolas Cruz. Dimitrios Pagourtzis, the Santa Fe shooter, had also been bullied although it appears that an incident with his female classmate prompted his decision to kill her and some of his other classmates. Shana Fisher, one of his victims, told her family that Pagourtzis had been pestering her for months, trying to get him to go out with her and she repeatedly rebuffed him. Her best friend was his former girlfriend and she knew him. She publicly embarrassed him in class. She told her mother he was going to bring a gun to school and kill her and if he did, she was “going to haunt him forever.” A spurned relationship with a girl was also a factor with Cruz in Florida. Ramos had some relationships with girls but it’s not known that any of them factored into his decision to shoot up a school.
Details about the bullying of Ramos have yet to emerge. One high school classmate claimed he wasn’t bullied but other classmates and family members said he was. Coworkers at a Wendy’s where he worked said he was sullen and withdrawn. One person who knew him said he was cruel to animals, particularly cats. One person alleged that he had once held a dead cat outside the passenger window of a car he was riding in. He is also alleged to have shot at people from a car with a BB gun. Nikolas Cruz was accused of bragging about killing animals and birds. One of his friends said Ramos was bullied a lot on social media. He was on some social media apps and was involved in online gaming according to the DPS.
I am no child psychologist but I did take some psychology classes in college, including one on adolescent psychology. The one thing adolescents crave is acceptance. While young children are innocent, that starts to change when they are about nine or ten. In Christianity, this is called the age of accountability, the age at which a child begins to realize the difference between good and evil and becomes accountable for their actions. It is also the age when school children begin forming cliques and ostracizing those who don’t fit in for whatever reason. There were kids in my classes more than a half-century ago who were “picked-on” because they didn’t fit in, for whatever reason. My recollection is that boys were much worse than girls although girls can be quite cliquish. Being ostracized means lack of acceptance. Sometimes the children’s actions go beyond ostracism to actual abuse, usually verbal such as name-calling or running the person down. The reaction to such actions is to become withdrawn, then sometimes to lashing out and calling people names in return. In short, it’s bullying and although those who do it don’t realize it, they may be creating social monsters.
I don’t know a way to prevent bullying. It’s as natural as air. People have been bullying others since the dawn of time. It’s probably part of Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” philosophy, that those who are stronger weed out the weaker by bullying and pushing them around. Sometimes the bullied push back, particularly when they gain assess to and proficiency with weapons. Sometime in the nineteenth century, Samuel Colt’s family of revolvers came to be known as “the great equalizer.” Often young men who have been bullied discover that they have a means of not only being equal to those who bully them, but also a means of getting back at them. In truth, bullied men had already found the equalizer in flintlock rifles and pistols, knives and tomahawks but Colt’s revolvers became more prevalent in the latter part of the century. In the early eighteenth century, the Harpe brothers (some say cousins) terrorized the Tennessee and Kentucky frontier. Believed to be from North Carolina, the Harpes were allegedly the sons of Tories who supported the British during the Revolution. Some believe they were mixed-race. They had a reputation for meanness and a willingness to kill at the drop of a hat. They are alleged to have once killed a man for snoring. One of the Harpes was alleged to have bashed his own child’s brains out by swinging the child against a tree because its crying disturbed him. Yep, those who shoot up schools are monsters but monsters are nothing new.
I don’t know what’s going to come out of the Uvalde shooting. Probably not much. Leftists are using the incident to push for more gun laws, such as raising the age for buying firearms to 21 while hoping to have “assault rifles” banned. The problem is that there are no “assault rifles” IN circulation! Assault rifles are already banned! The assault rifle term comes from a German selective-fire rifle developed during World War II. In order to be considered an assault rifle, it must have selective-fire capability, meaning it can be switched from semiautomatic to full automatic. Full automatic rifles and submachine guns have been banned in the United States since the 1930s when submachineguns and Browning Automatic Rifles were used by mobsters. The AR-15, the rifle the media usually refers to when attempting to describe a semiautomatic rifle, is not an assault rifle although the military derivative, the M-16, is. (Personally, having qualified with and carried an M-16 in the military, I don’t know why the AR-15 is so popular. I’d much rather have a Winchester Model 70 bolt-action. The AR-15 is a short-range rifle but I can kill from 1,000 yards with the Winchester. As for massive firepower, a shotgun loaded with buckshot will do the trick.) Leftists seek to ban ALL firearms in civilian hands because they see them as an obstacle to total government control over the populace which, by the way, is the purpose of the Second Amendment. It, along with the First and the other eight amendments in the Bill of Rights, was adopted because certain patriots, specifically Patrick Henry and George Mason, were opposed to the ratification of the Constitution because it granted no rights to the people. Virginia was not going to ratify the Constitution without a bill of rights and without Virginia, the Constitution was dead.
As far as Uvalde goes, the one person who is going to have to live with this for the rest of her life (and whose life is probably threatened) is the teacher who failed to close the door when she realized there was a shooter on campus. Her mistake cost the lives of the 19 children and 2 adults killed by Ramos. He’d have had a difficult time gaining access to the building had the door not been left unlocked. Law enforcement would have probably engaged him before he gained entry. Whether or not the chief of the school police bears responsibility is questionable. The media is raking him over the coals for deciding to wait for a well-equipped tactical team to storm the classroom where Ramos was. He was armed with a high-performance rifle after all. Had police attempted to get into the classroom without armor, some would have likely been killed.
Are such shootings preventable? The answer is – probably not. The reality is that the world is a violent place, it always has been violent and it always will be. After all, it wasn’t all that long ago that Buffalo Hump’s Comanche were coming down off of the plains into Central and South Texas and killing every white and Mexican they saw, usually after raping the women and girls.