Early Tuesday morning, an 18-year-old Salvador Ramos sent a private Instagram message to Anita, a 17-year-old girl he’d met randomly on the “Tinder for kids” app Yubo in March.
“I’m about to,” he wrote in the message posted at 7:43 a.m. local time, according to screenshots of the interaction shared with VICE News.
When Anita woke up in California several hours later she responded by asking: “About to what?”
The teen didn’t tell her what he was going to do, but he cryptically added: “I’ll tell you before 11. I got a lil secret. I wanna tell you.”
At 11:16 a.m., he sent his final message to Anita. “lma air out.”
Anita, who was not feeling well and had gone back to sleep, didn’t respond to his message until four hours later. By that time, Ramos was dead and so were at least 21 other people, including 19 elementary school children.
The gunman had just carried out one of the deadliest school shootings in American history.
The first calls to law enforcement came at 11:20 a.m. just minutes after he sent the message to Anita. The calls came after the gunman reportedly shot his grandmother, whom he was living with.
While some reports initially said the grandmother was dead, officials later said she had survived and was being treated in hospital. Her condition is unknown.
One local told a Newsy reporter that the suspect got into an argument with his grandmother over failing to graduate. “[He was] angry that he did not graduate, and he got into an argument with the grandmother and she was screaming,” the man claimed. It was Texan students last week of school before summer break.
The suspect then drove off in a “dark truck”, according to 911 callers, which he crashed in a ditch near the small campus of Robb Elementary School, home to around 600 students in second, third, and fourth grades, meaning they are aged between 7 and 10. The vast majority of the students there are Latino, The Associated Press reported. It’s been reported that all of the victims were all inside the same classroom during the massacre.
The suspect was seen exiting the vehicle brandishing a handgun and a rifle while wearing a backpack and body armor.
Two local police officers responded immediately to 911 calls about the truck crashing and engaged the gunman in a firefight outside the school. Both officers were shot in the exchange but didn’t have serious injuries.
Despite the law enforcement attention, the gunman proceeded and entered the school and immediately began to fire upon the student body, moving from classroom to classroom, officials said. At the end of the horror, at least 19 students were dead, along with two fourth-grade teachers, Irma Garcia and Eva Mireles.
“As soon as he made entry into the school he started shooting children, teachers, whoever was in his way, he was shooting everybody,” Texas Department of Public Safety spokesperson Lt. Chris Olivarez told the Daily Beast,
At the same time a team of agents from the Border Patrol raced to the school, including over a dozen members of a SWAT-like tactical and counterterrorism unit, Jason Owens, a top regional official with the Border Patrol, told AP.
But it was a lone Border Patrol agent, who was working nearby at the time, who ended the shooting. He entered the school on his own and killed Ramos, who was hiding behind a barricade at the time.
Who was the gunman?
Gov. Abbott identified the shooter as Salvador Ramos, who attended a nearby high school. Texas State Senator Roland Gutierrez told CNN that Ramos was born in North Dakota and had recently purchased the weapon on his 18th birthday.
A former neighbour told the Washington Post that the suspect’s home life with his mother was “rough” and police were regularly called. The Post reported that months ago he moved in with his grandmother. Classmates said two months ago he posted an instagram video showing him aggressively fighting with his mother saying she was kicking him out.
According to a former friend who spoke to the Washington Post, the suspect would use a knife to cut his face “for fun” and drive around shooting people with a BB gun at random. Other former friends said that the shooter had a speech impediment and was bullied “hard” by lots of people. They said when he and his mother relocated to Texas, he “became a different person” and “kept getting worse and worse.” Classmates at the Texas high school the suspect attended said he got in numerous fistfights with classmates, tended to take jokes too far, and told a friend he only wanted to join the Marines to kill people.
“He would take things too far, say something that shouldn’t be said, and then he would go into defense mode about it,” one classmate said.
Ramos worked at Wendy’s, the Daily Beast reported, where a co-worker described him as having an “aggressive streak.”
“He would be very rude towards the girls sometimes, and one of the cooks, threatening them by asking, ‘Do you know who I am?’ And he would also send inappropriate texts to the ladies. At the park, there’d be videos of him trying to fight people with boxing gloves. He’d take them around with him.”
His online footprint was remarkably small for someone in the digital age. An Instagram account tied to him was taken down in the hours following the shooting. The Instagram featured a photo of himself taking a mirror selfie and an image with a rifle that was posted three days prior. There was no bio and the username was simply The Biggest Opp.
A similar-looking TikTok page went up 23 hours before the shooting, the TikTok account which was viewed by VICE News before its removal was bare bones. Just featuring one post of a game and the same photo as the Instagram account. This profile, again with the username The Biggest Opp, had a bio, however, which said “Kids Be Scared IRL.”
No other social media accounts on other platforms have been connected to the shooter, though he was active on Yubo, a live streaming platform aimed at young people.
“I am not his girlfriend”
Back in March the shooter randomly contacted Anita, who did not want to share her second name with VICE News due to privacy concerns, on Yubo, using the same username and profile picture as his Instagram account, based on a screenshot of the pair’s interaction on Yubo shared with VICE News. Anita described Yubo as “Tinder for kids.”
“He asked me to be his girlfriend and stuff, as a joke, I think, I don't even know,” Anita told VICE News in a voice memo on Tuesday night. “And I said no.”
The shooter asked if they could move their chat to Instagram but when she said no because she was already chatting to someone on Instagram, he got aggressive. “Who are you talking to,” he demanded. When Anita said it doesn’t matter, he responded: “It does. Who. Exactly. Tell me,” according to screenshots of the interaction.
Anita said she didn’t then or doesn’t now have any more information about who the person she was speaking to was.
He contacted her again on May 12, this time on Instagram, where he asked her if she was “gonna repost my gun pics.”
Then on Friday, he tagged Anita in pictures of the guns he purchased on his birthday. She responded: “What your guns gotta do with me” and he said “just wanted to tag you.” Anita replied that “it’s just scary.”
After news of the shooting broke, Anita posted screenshots of her interaction with Ramos and wrote: “The only reason I responded was because I was afraid of him. I wish I had stayed awake to at least try to convince him not to commit his crime.”
Despite making it clear that she had nothing to do with Ramos, people still blamed her for the shooting.
“Now people are attacking me for it, and they think I'm his girlfriend, which I am not,” Anita said, adding that some people “are saying that I should have predicted what he was going to do.”
Bought rifle 8 days ago
According to the Daily Dot, the gunman posted about guns frequently on his Instagram and recently purchased a gun online.
One of the Instagram followers who spoke to the Daily Dot told the outlet that just over a week ago on Ramos’ birthday, he purchased a rifle online. This corresponds with what Senator Gutierrez said as May 16 is reportedly Ramos’s birthday. The user shared screenshots with the outlet showing a receipt that he purchased a weapon for $1,870. Prior to this he would post images of guns on his “wish list.”
The website that Ramos seemingly purchased the gun from has several firearms listed online. An AR-15 matches the price paid in the receipt. Other followers of the shooter on Instagram said, like Anita, that they interacted with Ramos on Yubo and frequently posted images of weapons online.
“All I know is he would always post guns on his story,” one anonymous follower told the Daily Dot.