The Uvalde school shooter scared many in the community long before he opened fire on May 24, killing 19 children and two teachers. In a riveting day of testimony, a special Senate hearing in Texas learned new details about 18-year-old Salvador Ramos.
From being seen carrying a bag of dead cats to “dressing and acting” like a school shooter, Ramos appeared on many people’s radar in the small town of 17,000. Several have since stated that they were worried about his erratic behavior.
Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety Col. Steve McCraw told officials that the lure of instant notoriety through social media may have spurred Ramos to mass murder. The shooter had a TikTok profile that said “Kids be scared” and multiple images of firearms on social media.
Of course, millions of similar posts proliferate online, and sifting through them to find what is childish posturing and what is an actual threat is virtually impossible.
It was widely reported that Ramos tagged a random person on Instagram just four days before the massacre. She asked him why he tagged her with a photo of guns and said “it’s just scary.”
The special committee heard testimony that Ramos asked a relative months before to buy a weapon for him. Due to his only being 17, they refused. So he began purchasing rifle accessories and waited until his 18th birthday to buy the two 5.56 millimeter rifles.
McCraw told the senators that he conducted 500-700 interviews with members of the community.
What he found was that the 18-year-old’s penchant for bizarre behavior was well known. McCraw also told senators that it was never reported to law enforcement.
As for the police response to the massacre, McCraw declared, “this set our profession back a decade.” Tuesday’s testimony revealed officers could have rushed the adjoining classrooms within three minutes of the first shots being fired.
It was, however, well over an hour before anyone attempted to enter the rooms and engage Ramos.
Terrible lessons may be learned from what the committee heard was an “abject failure.” But these are the same lessons that were supposed to be learned after the 1999 Columbine massacre. Warning signs are too often ignored and rescuers, at least in this case, can still be tragically hesitant.