A teenage gunman killed at least 19 young children and two adults at an elementary school in Texas on Tuesday.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, addressing an earlier news conference, named the suspect as Salvador Ramos, an 18-year-old local resident and a US citizen.
“He shot and killed, horrifically and incomprehensibly,” Abbott said.
Texas Department of Public Safety officials told CNN the gunman is believed to have shot his grandmother before heading to Robb Elementary School around noon where he abandoned his vehicle and entered with a handgun and a rifle, wearing body armour.
The young man opened fire at Robb Elementary School – which teaches children aged seven to 10 – in the city of Uvalde before he was killed by law enforcement, officials said.
The 18-year-old suspect had a handgun, an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and high-capacity magazines, investigators say.
A US Border Patrol official who was nearby when the shooting began rushed into the school and shot and killed the gunman, who was behind a barricade.
Two adults also died in the attack; they were both teachers – Irma Garcia and Eva Mireles.
Footage showed small groups of children weaving through parked cars and yellow buses, some holding hands as they fled under police escort from the school.
It was the deadliest such incident since the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut, in which 20 children and six staff were killed.
The White House ordered flags to be flown at half-staff in mourning for the victims – whose deaths sent a wave of shock through a country still scarred by the horror of Sandy Hook.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, Robb Elementary – which teaches more than 500, mostly Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students – called on parents not to rush in to get their children.
“You will be notified to pick up students once all are accounted for,” the school said on its website soon after the attack.
Videos circulating on social media shows parents desperately running towards the school and parents and their relatives comforting each other. A mother is seen crying out loud while sitting on the road outside the school.
Teen’s Instagram exchange before he shot students
Hours before 18-year-old Salvador Ramos opened fire at an elementary school in Texas, shot off a text message on social media – “I’m about to”.
Messaging a girl from what reports suggest was his Instagram account, Ramos also said: “‘I got a lil secret I wanna tell u”. He added the emoji of a smiley covering its mouth.
His last message was at around 9.16 am.
At 11.32 am, he was shooting little children at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.
Nineteen children were among the 21 people he killed before he was shot dead.
Ramos had first messaged the girl from his reported account @salv8dor_ after tagging her in a photo of guns. He messaged her again on Tuesday morning, just before the shooting.
“I’m about to,” he wrote in the message.
The girl asked – “About to what?”
He replied: “I’ll tell you before 11.”
Ramos, according to the police, fired at his grandmother before leaving for the school. He was a student at Uvalde High School before finding work at a Wendy’s outlet.
In an emotional speech from the White House Tuesday, Biden said it was time for “every parent, every citizen of this country” to push for “common sense gun laws.”
Tributes and messages of support have poured in from around the world in the wake of the school shooting, including from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who said “the people of Ukraine share the pain” of those affected by the shooting.
A loving, close-knit community
The attack in Uvalde – a small community about an hour from the Mexican border – was the deadliest US school shooting in years, and the latest in a spree of bloody gun violence across America.
The town sits about 85 miles west of San Antonio.
It’s the kind of place where “interconnections are thick” and no one would have expected a mass shooting at the local school, Marc Duvoisin, the editor-in-chief of the nearby San Antonio Express-News, told NPR.
Uvalde is also best known as the hometown of Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey.
(Agencies; Picture Courtesy: AFP)