With emotion in his voice, President Joe Biden spoke to the nation Tuesday night after a mass shooting at a Texas elementary school. “I am sick and tired,” he said. “We have to act.”
Eighteen schoolchildren were killed Tuesday when an 18-year-old gunman walked into their elementary school and opened fire. The gunman, who lived in the town, is dead.
At least two adults also were killed, but it was not clear if that number included the gunman.
VOA Special Report: School Shootings
Biden said it was time to stand up to the gun industry.
“Where in God’s name is our backbone, the courage to do more and then stand up to the lobbies?” Biden said. "It’s time to turn this pain into action.”
Three people were wounded and are hospitalized in serious condition, said Texas State Senator Roland Gutierrez, who was briefed by state police. Guterrez said the suspect killed his grandmother before going to the school.
The death toll is expected to rise, federal law enforcement officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release details of the investigation.
“God bless the loss of innocent life on this sad day,” Biden said. "May the Lord be near to the brokenhearted and save those crushed in spirit, because they’re going to need a lot.”
It was the deadliest school shooting in Texas and the deadliest elementary school shooting since the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012, that left 26 people dead, 20 of them schoolchildren.
The gunman "shot and killed, horrifically, incomprehensibly, 14 students and killed a teacher," Texas Governor Greg Abbott said earlier in the day, adding that two officers who were wounded are expected to survive.
The governor identified the gunman as Salvador Ramos.
“It's believed that he abandoned his vehicle and entered into the Robb Elementary School [in] Uvalde with a handgun, and he may have also had a rifle, but that's not yet confirmed according to my most recent report," Abbott added. He was also wearing body armor, Sgt. Erick Estrada of the Texas Department of Public Safety told CNN.
A Border Patrol agent who was nearby when the shooting began rushed into the school without waiting for backup and shot the suspect, who was behind a barricade, according to a law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about it.
The agent was wounded but able to walk out of the school, the law enforcement source said. An investigation into the shooting is continuing.
Officials have not revealed a motive for the shooting. Ramos is believed to have acted alone, Pete Arredondo, Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District chief of police, said at a news conference.
Earlier Uvalde Memorial Hospital said 13 children were taken there. Another hospital reported a 66-year-old woman was in critical condition.
"Today is a dark day. We’re all completely sickened and heartbroken. As of now, 15 innocent people are dead. 14 were children. Others are still in critical condition or otherwise injured, and we are all praying for each of them,” U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said in a statement. “We’ve seen too many of these shootings. No parent should have to bear the pain of burying their child. We need to come together, as one nation, and support Uvalde as they try to heal from this devastating loss.”
The school has an enrollment of about 600 students in the second, third and fourth grades and sits in a mostly residential neighborhood of modest homes. The town has a population of about 16,000 people and is the seat of government for Uvalde County. It is about 135 kilometers (84 miles) west of San Antonio and about 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of the border with Mexico.
“My heart is broken today,” said Hal Harrell, the school district superintendent, announcing that all school activities were canceled until further notice. “We’re a small community and we’re going to need your prayers to get through this.”
A heavy police presence surrounded the school Tuesday afternoon, with officers in heavy vests diverting traffic and FBI agents coming and going from the building.
Texas has been the scene of several mass shootings over the past five years. One year before the Santa Fe school shooting in 2018, a gunman at a Texas church killed more than two dozen people during a Sunday service in the small town of Sutherland Springs. In 2019, another gunman at a Walmart in El Paso killed 23 people in a racist attack.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.