Community members are mourning and law enforcement is still looking for answers two days after an 18-year-old gunman shot and killed 19 children and two adults at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
On Wednesday, officials released new details about the gunman’s actions before and during the shooting, though they are still looking for a motive.
Meanwhile, Uvalde residents gathered in an arena to honor the victims and comfort their neighbors. And as the nation reels, people are looking for ways to help the community and prevent future tragedies.
Here’s where things stand on Thursday morning.
The shooter sent social media messages about his plans
The gunman shot his grandmother in the face and posted on social media about it 15 minutes before fleeing and driving to Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott said at a Wednesday news conference.
“Anyone who shoots his grandmother in the face has to have evil in his heart, but it is far more evil for someone to gun down little kids,” he said.
Investigators have not officially determined a motive behind the attack, but say the gunman sent three online messages on Tuesday warning about his plans.
He first wrote that he was going to shoot his grandmother, and then that he had done so, Abbott said Wednesday. He said about 15 minutes before he reached Robb Elementary that he was going to shoot up an elementary school, though did not specify which one.
Meta spokesperson Andy Stone later clarified that those messages were “private, one-to-one text messages that were discovered after the terrible tragedy occurred.” Meta — the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — is cooperating with law enforcement’s ongoing investigation, he added.
CNN and The New York Times report that the gunman allegedly sent a series of messages to a teenage girl living in Frankfurt, Germany, whom he had met online. She provided screenshots to both outlets, though NPR has not verified those messages independently.
The 15-year-old – whom the Times identified only as “Cece” – said the two began talking on social media earlier this month.
The gunman told her on Monday that he had received a package of ammunition that would expand on impact, she said, adding that she asked what he was planning and was told it would be a surprise. She said that he has also showed her – on a video call, of which she provided screenshots — a black bag that appeared to hold many magazines of ammunition and at least one firearm.
The Times says that the two spoke on a video call on Tuesday morning, and that the gunman — who was wearing all black — said he couldn’t tell her his secret until his grandfather left the house. He later texted her that he was waiting for his grandmother, who he said was “on the phone with AT&T” about his cell phone. Some 15 minutes later, he texted that he had shot her.
Cece told The Times that she asked a friend in the U.S. to contact the authorities after hearing about the shooting on the news, and spoke regretfully of the delay.
“Maybe I could’ve changed the outcome,” she told The Times. “I just could never guess that he’d actually do this.”
Witnesses shouted at arriving officers to go in
Approximately 40 minutes to an hour passed from when the gunman first arrived at Robb Elementary and fired a shot at a security guard to when he was killed by a Border Patrol agent, according to The Associated Press.
Witnesses shouted at police to go into the school after the gunman, but the officers did not do so initially.
Juan Carranza, who lives across the street from the school and saw the gunman pull up in a truck, eventually suggested to the civilians gathered outside that they charge the school building as law enforcement waited, AP reported.
Texas Rangers are leading the investigation into the shooting, Abbott said.
Former congressman Beto O’Rourke interrupted Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s remarks
As Abbott prepared to close his remarks at Wednesday’s news conference, former congressman and 2020 presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke interrupted the governor.
“You are doing nothing,” O’Rourke said. “This is totally predictable. You’re all doing nothing.”
A variety of responses can be heard in the background, including, “sit down,” “you’re out of line and an embarrassment” and “let him talk.”
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said, “I can’t believe you’re a sick son of a b**** to come to a deal like this to make a political issue.”
O’Rourke, who is running against Abbott in the state’s 2022 gubernatorial election, then left the auditorium.
He spoke to media outside the auditorium about Abbott, saying, “The only thing he did was make it easier to carry a gun in public. And he bragged about the fact that there would be no background check, no training, no vetting whatsoever. He talked about ‘this was evil.’ The only thing evil is what he continues to do to the people of this state.”
Mourners gathered at a community vigil
The Uvalde County Fairplex typically hosts happy celebrations like quinceañeras and weddings. But on Wednesday night, the arena became the site of an emotional vigil.
Roughly 2,000 community members gathered to remember the victims, to offer prayers and to comfort their neighbors.
Ministers from three local churches spoke to the overflow crowd, leading them in prayers for the victims, their loved ones, the city and all those impacted by Tuesday’s tragedy.
Texas Public Radio reports that it was standing-room only at the vigil, with a constant stream of residents, law enforcement officers and journalists entering the arena.
Volunteers offered water and soda to attendees, while golden retrievers were on standby to soothe mourners. Community leaders were in attendance, as were Abbott, O’Rourke and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.
At one point, “Amazing Grace” played while attendees observed a moment of either silence or prayer.
Morning Edition co-host A Martínez watched as a woman made a beeline for a crying teenage girl headed toward the exit, then hugged her wordlessly for over a minute. They didn’t seem to know each other, he said, but at that moment it didn’t matter.
“That’s what we do here in Uvalde, we hug and we love,” said the woman, Lea Rentch. She described the community as tight-knit and small – her own grandson goes to school in Uvalde but wasn’t at the Robb Elementary campus that day.
The grief of Uvalde residents was palpable and overwhelming, Martínez said, adding that the vigil was unlike anything he’d previously covered.
“It was impossible not to feel how vulnerable and violated this community is right now,” he said. Listen to more of his reporting here.
NBA team urged fans to call lawmakers over gun control
At a Wednesday night playoff game, the Miami Heat basketball team urged fans to call their lawmakers to advocate for gun reform laws after 19 children and two adults were killed at a the Uvalde elementary school shooting.
“The Heat urges you to contact your state senators by calling 202-224-3121 to leave a message demanding their support for common sense gun laws,” the stadium announcer said as the team geared up to play the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the teams’ playoff series.
The team, which was facing the Boston Celtics, held a moment of silence before the announcement.