May 29, 2022

Every mass school shooting strikes terror in parents’ hearts and grief in the communities in which they occur. You might from press coverage have the idea that they are a regular occurrence, but, in fact, they remain rare — 13 mass school shootings since 1966.

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Still, like all seemingly incomprehensible tragedies it causes a search for meaning. After all, people my age went to schools where there were rifle clubs. Kids in those clubs regularly brought their weapons to school, and yet there weren’t any school shootings. (I expect in some rural areas of the country this may still be the case.)

What is common, as it is in all tragic events, is the jumbling of facts and the need to wait a few days for a clearer picture. The best information I can find right now about the shooting in Uvalde, Texas comes from the Wall Street Journal.

With minor additions as late-developing information comes in from elsewhere, that is the source of this summary timeline. 

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Salvador Ramos, an 18-year-old, shot his grandmother Tuesday morning. He drove her truck to Robb elementary school and crashed it in a ditch at 11:28. Emerging from the truck he began shooting at persons outside a funeral home located across the street from the school. Police received a 911 call about the shooting at 11:30. He then climbed a fence and entered the school grounds, began firing without interference at 11:40. By 11:44 the local police arrived at the school. By that time Ramos had locked himself into a fourth-grade classroom and killed teachers and students. Some students in that room sent 9ll messages as the shootings were taking place. The location of the gunman was known but the police did not enter the room until 12:40. 

(The Texas DPS says the police did go in and engage Ramos immediately but then retreated and stood outside in the hallway until 12:50.) Ramos entered the building at an exit door one teacher, not identified, had propped open when the shooting began outside the school and failed to secure it. Presumably this is the same person who first called 911 and if so, it is easy for investigators to determine the teacher’s identity. This seems to have been the first serious mistake., the second being the police failure to stay in and engage Ramos immediately. 

Mass shootings — unlike the never-ending daily carnage on the streets of our major cities — receive outsize coverage from people who have their pet theories as to why such tragedies occur. I think we are dealing with a combination of the killers’ psychiatric issues and clueless behavior by their family members. The family usually expresses disbelief that one of their members could do this. Less blinkered observers report that Ramos abused animals, bullied people, engaged in self cutting, threatened girls with rape, and announced on social media that he’d be shooting up the school before he made good on that threat. 

Parents were prevented in the interim between Ramos’ entry into the school and the tardy police response from entering to save their kids. One woman was handcuffed for trying. When she was released from the police cuffs by a friend, she climbed the fence, entered the school and removed her two children to safety. The Border Patrol arrived at the school shortly after noon to assist. As they did with the parents, the local law enforcement team on site refused to allow them to enter. 

Flopping Aces, echoes my thoughts on this.  Reviewing several other cases — Jared Loughner, Nikolas Cruz, Peyton Gendron — along with this one, the  author shows that those closest to the shooter just were not paying even minimal attention to the teens’ psychiatric issues:

Salvador Ramos wasn’t right in the head and was known to police. He also left a trail: