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By Holly Yan, Aya Elamroussi and Dakin Andone, CNN
We may never know why a shooter gunned down 19 children and two teachers in a massacre Tuesday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
But as the nation mourns 21 lives lost, more details are emerging about the shooting and the investigation, along with unsettling questions about the timeline and the police response — chief among them how long the gunman was in the school and how he managed to keep police out of a classroom where the victims were killed.
More questions were raised Thursday afternoon after officials revealed no officers engaged the suspect before he entered the school — contradicting earlier information that he encountered an armed school resource officer.
Here’s what we know and what we don’t know:
Gunman shot his grandmother, texted his plans and crashed his car
Salvador Ramos, 18, was the gunman, authorities have said.
Minutes before the horrific attack, Ramos allegedly sent a series of text messages to a teen girl in Europe whom he had met online, describing how he had just shot his grandmother and would “shoot up a(n) elementary school.”
Ramos complained about his grandmother being “on the phone with AT&T abojt (sic) my phone,” according to screenshots reviewed by CNN and an interview with the girl, whose mother gave permission for her to be interviewed.
“It’s annoying,” he texted.
Six minutes later, he texted: “I just shot my grandma in her head.”
Seconds later, he said, “Ima go shoot up a(n) elementary school rn (right now).”
It’s not clear why Ramos then targeted Robb Elementary, a school of 535 students in grades 2 through 4 as of last school year.
The 15-year-old girl, who lives in Frankfurt, Germany, had begun chatting with Ramos on May 9 on a social media app, she said later.
Ramos told her Monday he got a package of ammunition and the bullets would expand when they struck somebody, she said.
At some point, the girl asked what he planned to do. He told her it was a surprise and to “just wait for it,” she said.
On Tuesday, at 11:01 a.m. CT, Ramos called and told her he loved her, she said.
When the horrific school attack unfolded
Although authorities have released conflicting information on law enforcement’s response to the shooting, here’s what we know about the timeline of Tuesday’s shooting (all times Central) — as of early Friday.
• 11:21 a.m.: The shooter engaged in text message exchange with the girl in Germany, telling her that he shot his grandmother. The 66-year-old was in serious condition Wednesday at a San Antonio hospital, officials said.
• 11:28 a.m.: The shooter crashed his truck in a ditch near the school, DPS Regional Director Victor Escalon said during a news conference Thursday. He got out of the truck, carrying a rifle and bag, Escalon added. The cause of the crash was not clear, officials have said.
The shooter saw two people at a funeral home across the street and fired at them before continuing to walk toward the school, Escalon said. He climbed a fence into a parking lot and began shooting at the school.
At that point, no officers were at the school when the gunman arrived, Escalon said, walking back earlier information released by his agency that the gunman first encountered an armed school resource officer.
• 11:40 a.m.: The shooter walked into the west side of the school apparently through an unlocked door, “so, we are going to look at that and try to corroborate that as best we can,” Escalon said. The shooter walked through the school and into the adjoining classroom with opened doors between them, he added.
• 11:42 a.m.: A teacher who was inside the school sent a text to a source, saying there was an active shooter at the school, according to the source. CNN has reviewed the timestamps.
• Four minutes after entering the school, officers with the Uvalde Police Department and school district entered the school and heard gunfire, Escalon said.
“Officers are there, the initial officers, they received gunfire, they don’t make entry initially because of the gunfire they’re receiving. But we have officers that are calling for additional resources,” Escalon said, describing requests for equipment such as body armor and personnel, including negotiators.
• An hour later, a tactical team comprised of officers from US Border Patrol, the Uvalde County Sheriff’s Office and the Uvalde Police Department made entry and fatally shot the suspect, Escalon said.
Conflicting information from officials
Authorities received backlash over the conflicting nature of information that’s been released about the timeline of the shooting spree, particularly over the length of time the shooter was in the school before he was shot dead.
Ramos managed to remain in the school for up to an hour and had barricaded himself inside adjoining classrooms where the 19 fourth-graders and two teachers were slaughtered, per DPS officials.
It remains unclear how the shooter barricaded himself inside the classrooms — whether he locked the door or created a physical barrier, for example, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesperson Chris Olivarez said Thursday morning.
“We’re still trying to establish if there was any type of locking mechanism on the doorway from inside the classroom,” he said.
DPS officials had previously said the gunman was “engaged” by a school officer, and the gunman dropped a black bag full of ammunition outside the school during that encounter.
That earlier information was “not accurate,” Escalon told reporters Thursday, and nobody confronted the shooter from the time he left his grandmother’s house to the time he entered the school. The shooter, he said, “walked in unobstructed, initially.”
Meanwhile, the door Ramos used to access the school is “typically locked,” said Ross McGlothlin, a former principal for the school. “It’s an exterior door that you don’t need to go to unless you’re leaving to go home on a school bus,” McGlothlin told CNN on Thursday.
The district had created a safety plan with its own police force, social media monitoring, and a threat-reporting system to “provide a safe and secure environment” for students, its website states. It’s not clear to what degree the plan was developed with active shooters in mind.
More than 80 federal officers responded immediately to the carnage, and soon 150 converged on the area, US Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz told CNN on Wednesday.
Key questions remain unanswered
Authorities are still investigating and trying to piece together a full timeline, Escalon said at Thursday’s news conference.
Amid the unknowns, questions swirled about the police response.
“So, we’re trying to establish every single timeline as far as how long the shooter was inside the classroom, how long did the shooting take place. But as of right now, we have not been able to establish that,” Olivarez told CNN.
On Thursday evening, Olivarez said investigators are conducting interviews with the officers who responded and “trying to establish exactly what was their role.”
“That will help us establish a more factual, concrete timeline, as far as from the time the shooter arrived at the school when he crashed to the time that he was killed and what happened in between,” he said.
Emergency protocol calls for ending a threat as quickly as possible because fatalities happen in seconds to minutes, experts said.
“According to the way that active shooter training is deployed now, police officers are taught that you need a team of three. Once you have three officers … you go into the required formation and you make entry into that space wherever the shooter is,” Andrew McCabe, CNN senior law enforcement analyst, told CNN on Thursday afternoon.
By Escalon’s account, at least three officers were on scene by 11:44 a.m.
“You could make the argument that any one of those individual officers should have gone in even earlier than that, but certainly by 11:44 (a.m.), they have three officers there, that would be consistent with the training,” McCabe added.
What we know so far about the shooter …
The gunman was a student at Uvalde High School, officials said.
Three days before the shooting, a photo of two AR-15-style rifles appeared on an Instagram account tied to Ramos.
Ramos recently sent a former classmate a photo showing an AR-15, a backpack with rounds of ammunition, and several gun magazines, said the peer, who didn’t want to be identified.
“I was like, ‘Bro, why do you have this?’ and he was like, ‘Don’t worry about it,'” the friend told CNN. “He proceeded to text me, ‘I look very different now. You wouldn’t recognize me.'”
Ramos had stopped attending school regularly, the friend said. He worked at a local Wendy’s, the restaurant’s manager told CNN.
Ramos “kept to himself mostly” and “didn’t really socialize with the other employees,” evening manager Adrian Mendes said. “He just worked, got paid, and came in to get his check.”
The teen in Germany who said she and Ramos had communicated for weeks said Ramos told her he spent a lot of time alone at home.
“Every time I talked to him,” she said. “He never had plans with his friends.”
… and the victims whose lives were stolen
By Wednesday morning, after hours filled with agony, several of the victims’ families confirmed they had received devastating news.
Just hours before he was killed, 10-year-old Xavier Lopez was celebrated at Robb Elementary’s honor roll ceremony, his mother Felicha Martinez told The Washington Post.
“He really couldn’t wait to go to middle school,” she said.
Angel Garza spent seven hours searching for his 10-year-old daughter before learning Amerie Jo Garza was among the children killed, he said.
“Please don’t take a second for granted,” Garza posted on Facebook. “Hug your family. Tell them you love them.”
Ten-year-old Eliahana “Elijah” Cruz Torres was also a victim, her aunt Leandra Vera told CNN. “Our baby gained her wings,” she said.
Tess Marie Mata, also 10, was killed in the shooting, too, her sister Faith Mata, 21, confirmed to the Washington Post. Tess was a fourth-grader who loved TikTok dances, Ariana Grande and the Houston Astros, Mata told the Post. She had been saving money for a family trip to Disney World.
“My precious angel you are loved so deeply. In my eyes you are not a victim but a survivor. I love you always and past forever baby sister, may your wings soar higher than you could ever dream,” Mata wrote on Twitter.
As of Thursday, six victims remained hospitalized, four of whom — including the gunman’s grandmother, who is in serious condition — are at University Hospital in San Antonio, according to the hospital.
Two 10-year-old girls are among those in the hospital — one in serious condition and the other in good condition. A 9-year-old child is in good condition, the hospital said Thursday.
Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio was treating two adult patients from the shooting, both in serious condition, a spokesperson said.
The remains of 19 victims had been taken to funeral homes by midday Thursday, with the final two due to be released that afternoon, Judge Lalo Diaz said.
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CNN’s Isabelle Chapman, Daniel A. Medina, Peter Nickeas, Paradise Afshar, Curt Devine, Jeff Winter, Evan Perez, Andy Rose, Priscilla Alvarez, Jamiel Lynch, Donie O’Sullivan, Jose Lesh, Amanda Jackson, David Williams, Sara Smart, Amanda Watts, Chris Boyette, Joe Sutton, Victor Blackwell, Ashley Killough, Joseph Bonheim and Jennifer Henderson contributed to this report.