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A gunman warned of the attack on a Texas school on social media

The shooter who massacred 19 children and two teachers at a Texas elementary school warned on social media minutes before the attack that he had shot his grandmother and was going to target a school, the state governor.

Salvador Ramos, 18, used a semi-automatic rifle to shoot students at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.

He had legally purchased two of the rifles days before the attack, shortly after his 18th birthday, authorities said.

About 30 minutes before the bloodbath, Ramos made three social media posts, Gov. Gregg Abbot said.

According to the governor, Ramos posted that he was going to shoot his grandmother, then he shot the woman, and finally he was going to shoot an elementary school.

Mr. Abbott said Ramos, a resident of the community about 85 miles west of San Antonio, had no known criminal or mental health history.

Seventeen people were injured in the attack.

“Evil swept away Uvalde yesterday. Anyone who shoots their grandmother in the face must have evil in their hearts,” Mr Abbott told a news conference.

“But it’s far more evil for someone to shoot small children. It’s intolerable and unacceptable for us to have someone in the state who would kill small children in our schools.

Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who is running against Mr Abbott for governor this year, interrupted the press conference, calling the Republican’s response to the tragedy “predictable”.

Mr O’Rourke was escorted away as members of the crowd shouted at him.

As details of the latest massacre to rock the United States have emerged, grief has engulfed the small town of Uvalde, which has a population of 16,000.

Among the dead were a 10-year-old girl, Eliahna Garcia, who loved to sing, dance and play basketball; fellow fourth grader Xavier Javier Lopez, who was looking forward to a summer of swimming; and a teacher, Eva Mireles, with 17 years of experience whose husband is an officer with the school district police department.

A vigil is held for the victims (The San Antonio Express-News via AP)

“I just don’t know how people can sell this type of gun to an 18-year-old child,” Eliahna’s aunt Siria Arizmendi said angrily through tears. “What is he going to use it for if not for this purpose?”

Christopher Olivarez of the Texas Department of Public Safety told CNN that all of those killed were in the same fourth-grade class.

The killer “barricaded himself locking the door and just started shooting the kids and the teachers inside that classroom,” Mr Olivarez said. “It just shows you the utter evil of the shooter.”

Law enforcement eventually burst into the classroom and killed the shooter. Police and others responding to the attack also smashed the windows of the school to allow students and teachers to escape.

The attack in the predominantly Latino town of Uvalde was the deadliest school shooting in the United States since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012.

The bloodshed was the latest in a seemingly endless series of massacres at churches, schools, stores and other sites across the United States. Just 10 days earlier, 10 black people were gunned down in a racist rampage at a Buffalo supermarket.

A state trooper walks past the Robb Elementary School sign in Uvalde
A state trooper walks past the Robb Elementary School sign in Uvalde (William Luther/The San Antonio Express-News via AP)

In a somber address to the nation hours after the Texas attack, President Joe Biden pleaded for Americans to “stand up to the gun lobby” and enact tougher restrictions, saying, “When in the name of God are we going to do what must be finished?”

But the prospects for national gun regulatory reform looked bleak. Repeated attempts over the years to expand background checks and enact other restrictions have been met with Republican opposition in Congress.

On the day Ramos purchased his second gun last week, an Instagram account that investigators say apparently belongs to Ramos carried a photo of two AR-style guns.

Ramos apparently tagged another Instagram user, who has over 10,000 followers, asking him to share the photo with his followers.

“I barely know you and you tag me in a photo with guns,” replied the Instagram user, who has since deleted his profile. “It’s just scary.”

On the morning of the attack, the account linked to the shooter replied, “I’m about to do it.”

Instagram confirmed to The Associated Press that it was working with law enforcement to review the account, but declined to answer questions about the posts.

Investigators are also looking at an account on TikTok, possibly belonging to the shooter, with a profile that reads: “Kids Are Scared IRL”, an acronym meaning “in real life”.

Officers found one of the rifles in Ramos’ truck and the other in the school, according to the briefing given to lawmakers.

Ramos was wearing a tactical vest but there were no reinforced armor plates inside, lawmakers said. He also dropped a backpack containing several magazines full of ammunition near the entrance to the school.

One of the firearms was purchased from a federally licensed dealer in the Uvalde area on May 17, according to State Senator John Whitmire, who was briefed by investigators. Ramos bought 375 rounds the next day, then bought the second rifle last Friday.

On Tuesday morning, Ramos shot and injured his grandmother, then fled, crashing his truck near the school and entering the building, authorities said.

Dillon Silva, whose nephew was in a nearby classroom, said students were watching the Disney film Moana when they heard several loud noises and a bullet shattered a window. Moments later, their teacher saw the attacker walk through the door.

People react outside the Civic Center in Uvalde, Texas, after the massacre (AP)

“Oh, my God, he has a gun! the professor shouted twice, according to Silva. “The teacher didn’t even have time to lock the door,” he said.

A tactical team forced their way into the classroom where the attacker was locked up and was met with gunfire from Ramos, but shot and killed him, according to Mr Olivarez.

In the aftermath, the families of Uvalde waited hours to hear from their children.

At the city’s civic center where some gathered on Tuesday evening, the silence was repeatedly broken by shouts and groans. “No! Please, no!” shouted a man, kissing another man. On Wednesday morning, volunteers were seen arriving with Bibles and therapy dogs.