Uvalde, Texas – Monday morning at Robb Elementary School, a line of high school seniors in maroon caps and dresses paid a visit to the children to offer them smiles, high fives and encouragement that one day if they study hard enough they too may graduate .
Notably missing from Uvalde High School’s alumni was 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, who frequently skipped classes and was unwilling to graduate. The next day he shot his grandmother and then went to school alone with an AR rifle and shot dead 19 children and two teachers for reasons authorities still can’t explain.
State police say Ramos has no criminal record, no treatment for a mental illness and no obvious signs he poses a threat to this close-knit, mostly Latino community 85 miles west of San Antonio.
But those who knew him saw increasing signs of loneliness, outbursts and aggression. And there were a series of cryptic social media messages – including to seemingly random teenage girls in Germany and California – that included photos of guns, ammunition and references to his desire to hurt and kill.
“He always seemed to take his anger out on the most innocent person in the room,” said 17-year-old Crystal Foutz, who went to school with Ramos and worked with him at fast-food chain Whataburger. “He got mad at people who thought he wasn’t okay. He was just always super weird.”
Most chilling was a series of messages on social platform Yubo just before Tuesday’s shooting that may have come too late to prevent the violence. Investigators are examining texts they believe Ramos sent to a 15-year-old German girl, including a minute before the massacre warning that he was about to “shoot an elementary school,” according to an unauthorized person Law enforcement official to discuss the matter who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Instagram photos posted under his nickname TheBiggestOpp showed him in front of a mirror taking a selfie and one from a gun magazine on his lap.
Earlier this month, Ramos tagged a photo of two long guns with an Instagram user who has more than 10,000 followers and asked her to share the image.
“I hardly know you and you tag me in a picture with some guns,” replied the Instagram user, a young woman from California. “It’s just scary.”
On May 17, the day after his 18th birthday, he visited a gun store to buy an AR rifle. A few days later he bought a second one.
On the day of the shooting, Ramos replied that he “has a little secret,” according to the publicly posted message exchange. He later typed, “I’m in.”
A TikTok account with the same selfie photo and username included a chilling line on its profile: “Kids be scared IRL,” short for “in real life.”
Neighbors and classmates report that Ramos has repeatedly gotten into arguments with his mother in recent years, even when the police have been called.
Some of them say the seeds of Ramos’ descent into mass murder may have started many years ago as a child who always had trouble fitting in with others, was the occasional target of bullies, and then became one himself.
A childhood friend recalled a time when Ramos admitted to cutting his face with knives for fun. The same friend, Santos Valdez Jr., 18, told the Washington Post that Ramos would drive around at night, harass cars with eggs and shoot random people with a BB gun. About a year ago, he said, Ramos posted a “wish list” of automatic rifles on social media.
Foutz, the former classmate, said Ramos has become increasingly withdrawn in recent months, “slowly dropping out of school” and getting into angry arguments with her ex-boyfriend and a couple at Whataburger.
“He wasn’t a big guy,” she told the AP. “He just had this ego. As if he were invincible.”
“He was really a loner, and the people he hung out with stopped hanging out with him because of those things,” she said.
On the morning of the shooting, Gilbert Gallegos, 82, who lives across the street from Ramos and his grandmother, heard a gunshot as he was pottering in his garden. He ran forward and saw Ramos speeding away in a truck and his bloodied grandmother approaching him, begging for help.
Ramos’ grandmother appeared covered in blood: “She says: ‘Berto, he did that. He shot me.’”
Minutes later, Ramos crashed the truck into a drainage ditch near the school, beginning an attack that would last more than an hour before finally being gunned down by authorities themselves.
Foutz said that unlike other mass shooters who didn’t show their intentions, Ramos was sending out signals that should have been intercepted.
“Looking at it now, it’s a textbook,” she said. “That could have been prevented. That should have been prevented.”
Condon and Mustian reported from New York. AP writers Acacia Coronado in Uvalde, Michael Balsamo and Amanda Seitz in Washington, and news researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.
Contact AP’s global investigative team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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https://www.local10.com/news/national/2022/05/26/texas-shooter-sent-warning-signs-messages-mostly-too-late/ Texas shooter sent warning signs, messages, mostly late