UVALDE, Texas — Thirty minutes before 18-year-old Salvador Ramos carried out a mass shooting at a Uvalde elementary school, he sent several chilling private social media messages, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said during a Wednesday press conference.
"The first post was to the point... he said, 'I'm going to shoot my Grandmother,'" Gov. Abbott said. "The second post was 'I shot my grandmother.' The third post, maybe less than 15 minutes before arriving at the school: 'I'm going to shoot an elementary school.'"
Abbott said each of the messages were sent on Facebook. That account, however, has now been disputed.
A Facebook spokesman described the messages as "private one-to-one text messages that were discovered after the terrible tragedy occurred." Texas DPS Director Steve McCraw also corrected this account in a Friday news conference.
"I want to correct something that was said early on in the investigation," McCraw said at the top of his press conference, referring to Gov. Greg Abbott’s statements on Wednesday. "That did not happen; it was actually on a message."
Rather public Facebook posts shared as Abbott said, McCraw said Ramos hinted at what was to come in a series of private, four-person Instagram chats and separate Instagram posts.
While Abbott and other law enforcement officials said in Wednesday's press conference that Ramos, a high school dropout, had no known criminal record or history of mental illness, officials said on Friday that Ramos' "digital footprint" in these chats revealed some of the various steps he took to get prepare for carrying out Tuesday's tragic events.
Along with offline actions -- beginning with Ramos asking his sister in September 2021 to help him buy a gun, a request she denied -- officials say Ramos' actions hint at an unfolding plan.
McCraw walked through the suspect’s “digital footprint” for the first time Friday and gave the following timeline:
- Feb. 28, 2022: In a group chat of four people on Instagram messenger, “it was discussed that Ramos being a school shooter.”
- March 1, 2022: In a group chat of four people on Instagram messenger, “[Ramos] discussed him buying a gun.”
- March 3, 2022: In another four-person Instagram chat, someone messaged, "word on the street is you are buying a gun," to which, McCraw said, the suspect responded, "Just bought something."
- March 14, 2022: Ramos posted on Instagram saying, "10 more days." Another user commented and said, "Are you going to shoot up a school or something?" The suspect replied, "No, and stop asking dumb questions and you’ll see." (It is unclear whether McCraw meant May instead of March when listing the dates, which would line up with the events of the shooting. The shooting happened on May 24, which would have been 10 days after May 14.)
Watch Friday's press conference below:
Ramos turned 18 on May 16 and became legally able to buy a rifle in Texas.
The next day, May 17, Ramos bought an AR-15 rifle at a sporting goods store, McCraw said on Wednesday.
The day after that, May 18, Ramos bought 375 rounds of ammunition.
On May 20, Ramos bought another AR-15 rifle at the same store, McCraw said on Wednesday.
Officials did not reveal the name of the sporting goods store.
Under federal law, firearms license holders are required to inform the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when someone buys more than one semiautomatic or high-caliber rifle within five days in Texas, and three other states.
It’s unclear if the ATF was notified after Ramos purchased the second rifle, and what would have happened even if they did.
Travis Bond, a federally licensed firearms dealer, said he has sent notifications similar to those required of the Uvalde licensed seller to the ATF, but has never been contacted for further information.
Bond told WFAA that he would find it odd that an 18-year-old like Ramos would have access to the cash to buy such expensive rifles. “It would be such an infrequent occurrence,” he said.
He said he likely would have taken note of the transaction. But even if he did think it warranted contacting law enforcement, he said he did not think anything would be done as long as it was a legal transaction.
“You have to have an actionable information,” he said.
In an interview with ABC News, Ramos’ grandfather said he didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary Tuesday morning. Rolando Reyes, 73, said his grandson was quiet and had moved in with them earlier this year.
He said he did not know his grandson had bought rifles.
He said his wife was undergoing surgery from the injuries she suffered when her grandson shot her.
The New York Times also located the acquaintance who received the messages. The 15-year-old who lives in Germany told The Times that she met Ramos on a live stream app.
The teen told Times that he called her and he told her he was buying an AR-15 rifle. In other conversations, he told her he had ordered ammunition online and showed her a black bag appearing to contain ammunition and a gun.
The girl also provided the New York Times with the text messages she exchanged with Ramos on the morning of the shooting.
“I just show my grandma in her head,” he said in a text message sent at 11:21 a.m. “Im go shoot up a elementary school.”
She told The Times that she read the text messages as they came but didn’t know if he was serious. She asked a friend to contact authorities in the United States after hearing news reports about the shooting.
“Maybe I couldn’t have changed the outcome,” she told The Times. “I just could never guess he’d actually do this.”
At Wednesday’s press conference, Abbott defended the state’s guns laws, saying that it has been legal for an 18-year-old to buy a rifle in Texas for more than 60 years.
“Why is it for the majority of those 60 years we did not have school shootings and why is it that we do now?” Abbott said. “The reality is that I don't know the answer to that question.”