On May 24, 2022, the third most deadly mass shooting in the United States occurred at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. The gunman, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, killed 19 children and two teachers, and wounded 17 others with an AR-15 style rifle. Ramos fired rounds outside of the school for five minutes. He then walked into the building freely through a side door and entered two classrooms. After 74 minutes of Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District police and Uvalde police waiting in the halls and outside the building, the Border Patrol Tactical Unit stepped in and fatally shot Ramos.
Parents attempted to enter the school to save their children. They were met with forceful pushing and yelling from an officer outside. One parent said, "You know that they are kids, right?" Another said, "Do the parents have to go in there? I'm ready!" Video footage shows parents pleading with officers to let them find and save their children.
The police in attendance that day have been criticized for their lack of intervening. At first, conflicting reports were published by the city and the state of Texas. A report by a Texas House of Representatives investigative committee gave insight into many aspects of the situation. According to the report, "At Robb Elementary, law enforcement responders failed to adhere to their active shooter training, and they failed to prioritize saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety... Despite the immediate presence of local law enforcement leaders, there was an unacceptably long period of time before officers breached the classroom, neutralized the attacker, and began rescue efforts".
Pedro Arredondo, chief of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Department and commander of the incident, is blamed for the overall police response of that day because of his lack of leadership. According to the report, it was wrong of the police to wait to engage with Ramosa and that it was the police chief's description of the situation that had this effect on the officers. It goes on to state, "Instead of continuing to act as if they were addressing a barricaded subject scenario in which responders had time on their side, they should have reassessed the scenario as one involving an active shooter... Recognition of an active shooter scenario also should have prompted responders to prioritize the rescue of innocent victims over the precious time wasted in a search for door keys and shields to enhance the safety of law enforcement responders." Arredondo was fired by the Uvalde school board after denying his role as the incident commander. The response by law enforcement is also under investigation by the Texas Ranger Division.
When Ramos turned 18 he purchased two AR-15 style rifles that were used in the shooting. People who saw Romas buying these items said he was "very nervous looking" and that he "appeared odd and looked like one of those school shooters". According to the report, "in an Instagram group conversation, a student told him that 'people at school talk [expletive] about you and call you school shooter.'" Ramos often referenced a deadline in his text and social media messages. He shared photos of the guns and receipts to prove they were real. He referred to this deadline up until the night before the shooting.
Following the shooting, Hope Mora, a Texas based photojournalist, got a call asking her to drive the six hours to Uvalde and photograph the scene and families who lost their children and loved ones. Mora said, "I felt honored and privileged that someone connected with my work, and thought this is a photographer who's going to do it the right way."
Mora got on the road. She thought to herself, "Photography is a weapon. Photography fantasizes. Photography lies a lot. So how am I going to use this medium to do justice for the families." She told herself, "I have to go into this and leave myself out of it."
Photography is a weapon. Photography fantasizes. Photography lies a lot. So how am I going to use this medium to do justice for the families.
Mora's photographs show the hurt and frustration the families feel. The New Yorker reported they are angry at the police for the time it took them to engage, according to the article Mora contributed her photographs to. There has been racial tension between police and residents of Uvalde according to this piece.
The victims are Nevaeh Alyssa Bravo, Jacklyn "Jackie" Jaylen Cazares, Makenna Lee Elrod, Jose Manuel Flores, Jr., Eliahna "Ellie" Amyah Garcia, Irma Garcia, Uziyah Sergio Garcia, Amerie Jo Garza, Xavier James Lopez, Jayce Carmelo Luevanos, Tess Marie Mata, Maranda Gail Mathis, Eva Mireles, Alithia Haven Ramirez, Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez, Maite Yuleana Rodriguez, Alexandria "Lexi" Aniyah Rubio, Layla Marie Salazar, Jailah Nicole Silguero, Eliahna Torres and Rojelio Fernandez Torres. Robb Elementary School is not having another academic year and is set to be demolished.