Baltimore Sun

Texas school shooter left ominous trail of warnings

State report reveals possible motives for tragedy that killed 21

- By Bernard Condon

The Uvalde, Texas, gunman gave off so many warning signs that he was obsessed with violence and notoriety in the months leading up to the attack that teens who knew him began calling him “school shooter.”

He was once bullied in one of the same classrooms where he killed 19 children and two teachers. And in the planning for the May 24 massacre, he collected articles about the Buffalo, New York, supermarke­t shooting and played video games with a young student while quizzing him about the school schedule.

A state investigat­ive report that highlighte­d law enforcemen­t’s bungled response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School has also provided the most in-depth account to date about missed red flags and possible motivation­s surroundin­g 18-yearold Salvador Ramos. Despite many warning signs, he still managed to legally amass more than $5,000 in guns, ammunition and gear in the weeks leading up to the killings.

Days before the attack, Ramos spoke out on social media of his plans to do something that would “put him all over the news.” He wrote of a desire to kill himself, shared online videos of beheadings and violent sex, and sent footage of himself driving around with “someone he met on the internet” holding a plastic bag containing a dead cat and pointing BB guns at people from the window.

“The attacker became focused on achieving notoriety,” according the 77-page interim report released Sunday by an investigat­ive panel of the Texas House of Representa­tives. “He believed his TikTok and YouTube channels would be successful. The small number of views he received led him to tell those with whom he interacted that he was ‘famous,’ that they were mere ‘randoms’ by comparison.”

The report — based on interviews with family members, testimony and data from Ramos’ phone — lays out a long trail of missed signals prior to the massacre but notes these clues were known only to “private individual­s” and not reported to authoritie­s. It also found Ramos had no known ideologica­l or political views that would have made his rantings more widely known.

The report traces the

descent of a shy, quiet boy once described by a teacher as a “wonderful student” with a “positive attitude.”

A former girlfriend told the FBI that she believed Ramos had been sexually assaulted by one of his mother’s boyfriends at an early age, the report said, but when Ramos told his mother at the time, she didn’t believe him.

Without assigning a specific motive, the report noted that Ramos talked about painful fourth grade memories to an acquaintan­ce weeks before the shooting.

Family members told investigat­ors how Ramos had been bullied in one of the same linked classrooms

where he carried out the attack.

They said he faced ridicule over his stutter, hair and for wearing the same clothing nearly every day.

Failing grades soon were accompanie­d by frequent absences — more than 100 a year beginning in 2018. The report noted it was unclear if a school resource officer ever visited Ramos’ home. Uvalde High School officials involuntar­ily withdrew him last fall, when he had only completed the ninth grade. That was about the same time he moved out of his mother’s house and began living with his grandmothe­r, just blocks from the elementary school.

Two months before the

shooting, a student on Instagram told him that “people at school talk (expletive) about you and call you school shooter.”

Crystal Foutz, who attended school with Ramos, told The Associated Press he was frequently angry and gave off “vibes” like he could shoot up the place.

Ramos took jobs at two fast-food restaurant­s to save money for what he told acquaintan­ces was “something big,” which family members assumed was his own apartment or car.

But on May 16, the gunman turned 18, and began purchasing firearms and ammunition. He eventually spent thousands of

dollars on two AR-style rifles, ammunition and other gear. And with no criminal history or even an arrest, Ramos passed all background checks.

He had earlier written online “10 more days,” eliciting speculatio­n from readers that he was planning to “shoot up a school or something” or commit “mass murder.” A friend told him that an acquaintan­ce was “telling everyone u shooting up the school.”

He also spent time playing the video game Roblox with his cousin’s son, a student at Robb Elementary, and “elicited from him details about his schedule and how lunch periods worked at the school.”

 ?? ERIC GAY/AP ?? Family members of mass shooting victims at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, listen as an investigat­ive report by state lawmakers is released on Sunday.
ERIC GAY/AP Family members of mass shooting victims at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, listen as an investigat­ive report by state lawmakers is released on Sunday.

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