The bullied high school loner with a troubled home life who suddenly snaps and massacres his classmates. It’s an all too familiar tale in modern day America.
In yet another unthinkable tragedy on Tuesday, Salvador Ramos, 18, slaughtered 19 innocent children and two much-loved teachers at Robb Elementary school, in Uvalde, Texas, before being killed in a shoot out with a border patrol officer.
It is the second deadliest shooting in US history after the infamous Sandy Hook massacre in 2012 – which saw 26 people killed – and has once again left people asking how someone could commit such a heinous crime.
As the country tries to make sense of the tragedy, stories about Ramos are beginning to emerge from those who knew him best, painting the picture of a troubled child who was heavily impacted by an unstable home, including an alleged drug-using mother, and relentless bullying at school – although neither of those facts provide an excuse for his evil crimes.
Neighbors and classmates say his behavior spiraled into the bizarre and macabre as he entered his later teenage years, with one friend telling Good Morning America: ‘He had scars on his face and someone asked him, ‘are you ok?’ and he just said with a smile ‘I did it myself, I liked how it looked.’
He began dressing in dark clothes and military boots and carried out drivebys using his BB gun to target random people, one local claimed.
The would-be mass murderer grew up on Hood Street, in a no-frills working class neighborhood, where homes are dotted along avenues more akin to dirt tracks and more than a third live at or barely above the federal poverty line.
Uvalde city itself counts around 15,000 residents and sits roughly 80 miles west of San Antonio, around an hour’s drive from the US-Mexico border.
According to Ramos’ neighbor Ruben Flores, 41, the shooter and his mother would often have screaming matches, with police being called to the home on multiple occasions.
Salvador Ramos, 18, was reportedly bullied at school for his clothing and because his family was poor, a ‘close’ friend said
Four days before the shooting, Ramos reportedly sent his friend pictures of his guns and ammunition. When asked why he had it, Ramos allegedly replied: ‘Don’t worry about it’
His social media was filled with new rifles, which he purchased on his 18th birthday
Ramos grew up in Hood Street before moving to his grandmother’s house some months ago, neighbors claimed
Ramos’ last known address, his grandmother’s residence, is seen taped off by police as they carry out searches
Ramos grew up on Hood Street (pictured), in a no-frills working class neighborhood, where homes are dotted along avenues more akin to dirt tracks, and where more than a third live at or barely above the federal poverty line.
In since deleted Instagram videos, Ramos had allegedly filmed his mother interacting with police.
Classmate Nadia Reyes claimed: ‘He’d call his mom a b***h and say she wanted to kick him out… He’d be screaming and talking to his mom really aggressively.’
Flores, meanwhile, told the Washington Post how he had tried to be a father figure to Ramos but that the situation at home only worsened as he got older.
Ramos’ grandmother, who owned the house on Hood Street, was reportedly in the process of evicting the mother over her drug use in the days before Tuesday’s killing spree. Flores said Ramos had moved into his grandmother’s home across town some months earlier.
She would be Ramos’ first victim on Tuesday, but the 66-year-old is reported to have survived after being ‘critically shot’.
By all accounts, Ramos had been a normal child until the eighth grade, with his ‘best friend’ from that period, Stephen Garcia, branding him the ‘nicest’ and ‘shyest kid’ who ‘just needed to break out of his shell.’
But he was relentlessly bullied for his stutter and his lisp, with cruel classmates hurling gay slurs at him. The target on his back only grew after he uploaded a picture of himself wearing eyeliner.
‘He would get bullied hard, like bullied by a lot of people,’ Garcia told the Post, ‘Over social media, over gaming, over everything.’
When Garcia had to move away, Ramos began to change, dressing in all black and donning large military boots.
Ramos moved to his grandmother’s home (pictured), after arguing his mother repeatedly over the years, locals claimed
An Uvalde police car is seen stationed outside the last known address of school shooter Salvador Ramos
In his early childhood, he had been nicknamed ‘pelon’, meaning bald in Spanish, for his incredibly short hair. But in an apparent bid to leave those days behind, he began to grow it long.
He was branded an ’emo’ or ‘alternative’ at school, where he got into multiple fist fights before increasingly playing truant.
By the end of his life, Ramos was working at a Wendy’s and was hardly in attendance at school. He was not set to graduate this year, a fact he seemed to despise.
One neighbor told local news channel Newsy that he witnessed Ramos arguing with his grandmother on Tuesday, claiming he was ‘angry that he did not graduate’.
He said the grandmother then screamed: ‘He shot me, he shot me’, before Ramos ‘zoomed down the street’ and crashed his pick-up truck before embarking on his killing spree – which happened to take place a day after his colleagues had graduated.
As he morphed into a ‘different person’ into his later teen years, one local claimed he would ride around at night with a friend firing a BB gun at random passersby. He is also said to have egged people’s cars.
He is said to have found it hard to hold onto friendships, often ‘taking things too far’ with bizarre and macabre comments.
He killed 19 kids and two adults at an elementary Robb Elementary School on Tuesday
One friend, who wanted to join the marines, said he cut off Ramos after the killer told him he only wanted to join the force ‘so he could kill people.’
A former classmate, who asked not to be identified, told CNN he and Ramos were somewhat ‘close’ and used to play Xbox together. The killer was a fan of the shooting and combat game Call of Duty.
On his since removed Instagram account, Ramos is believed to have shared a photo of two AR15-style rifles just three days before the massacre, while the bio on his TikTok page chillingly read: ‘Kids be scared irl’ (in real life).
Meanwhile, his Wendy’s co-workers told the Daily Beast that he had an ‘aggressive streak’ and would send inappropriate messages to female employees. They also branded him ‘quiet’ and ‘anti-social’.
One said: ‘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.’
The same source claimed there were multiple videos of Ramos fighting people with boxing gloves at a local park.
‘He’d take them around with him,’ they claimed.
In the hours leading up to the killings, the shooter reportedly showed off his guns to an LA-based woman via his Instagram page, taunting that he was ‘about to do’ something.
One video at the scene appears to show the suspected gunman, named by Governor Greg Abbott as Salvador Ramos, approach the school while what sounds like gunfire is going off in the background
A police vehicle is seen parked near of a truck believed to belong to the suspect behind a shooting at Robb Elementary School
When the woman asked what, he said: ‘I’ll tell you before 11.’ He began shooting at noon.
‘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 said.
‘This is just evil’, an Uvalde resident told the New York Times, ‘I’m afraid I’m going to know a lot of these kids that were killed.’
Another local, Adolfo Hernandez, told the same paper that his nephew had been in a classroom near where the shooting took place.
‘He actually witnessed his little friend get shot in the face,’ Hernandez said. The friend, he said, ‘got shot in the nose and he just went down, and my nephew was devastated.’
Speaking anonymously, one classmate said Ramos had begun showing up to class less and less as other kids bullied him over his clothes and his family’s financial situation.
‘He would, like, not go to school…and he just, like, slowly dropped out. He barely came to school,’ the friend said.
After the North Dakota native graduated from high school, the friend said they became even more distant from each other, but would occasionally message each other on Xbox.
‘He would message me here and there,’ he said.
Four days prior to Tuesday’s shooting, Ramos reportedly sent his friend a picture of the AR and a backpack full of 5.56 rounds.
‘[He had] probably like seven [magazines],’ he said. ‘I was like: ‘Bro, why do you have this?’ and he was like: ‘Don’t worry about it.”
Law enforcement are seen near the crime scene on Tuesday afternoon after the mass murder at the school
New video from the chaotic scene shows police arriving to the scene with their guns in hand
A woman cries while speaking on the phone outside the Ssgt Willie de Leon Civic Center, where students had been transported from Robb Elementary School to be picked up following the shooting
The school shooter – who originates from North Dakota and had recently moved to Texas – had reportedly bought two rifles on his 18th birthday, which was days ago, the Daily Beast reported.
Under a new Texan law passed in September, those aged 18-21 could buy guns if they had a protective order, because they were at risk of family violence, stalking, prostitution or sex trafficking.
The law also removed the requirement for a permit for a handgun. Rifles were already permitted in Texas without licenses.
In the days leading up to the massacre, Ramos told his friend that he ‘looked very different now.’
‘You wouldn’t recognize me,’ he messaged less than a week ago.
Ramos’s social media was full of photos of his new guns, which he bought on his 18th birthday, state senator Roland Gutierrez said.
Ramos also messaged a Los Angeles-based woman on May 12 on Instagram, tagging her in a photo of the guns.
‘You gonna repost my gun pics,’ @sal8dor_ direct messaged her.
‘What your guns gotta do with me,’ [sic] she replied on Friday.
‘Just wanted to tag you,’ he said back.
Then at 5:43am on Tuesday, @salv8dor_ messaged her and said: ‘I’m about to’.
The girl asked ‘about to what’ to which he answered: ‘I’ll tell you before 11.’
He said he would text her in an hour and urged her to respond.
‘I got a lil secret I wanna tell u,’ he messaged with a smiley face emoji covering its mouth.
‘Be grateful I tagged you,’ he wrote.
She replied: ‘No it’s just scary,’ adding: ‘I barely know you and you tag me in a picture with some guns?’
His last message at 9:16am on Tuesday was ‘Ima air out’.
The shooting started around 11:32am. The woman reacted with horror when she learnt what he had done.
‘He’s a stranger I know nothing about him he decided to tag me in his gun post,’ she wrote.
‘I’m so sorry for the victims and their families I really don’t know what to say.’
She then added: ‘The only reason I responded to him was because I was afraid of him I wish I stayed awake to at least try to convince him to not commit his crime. I didn’t know.’
When an Instagram user asked if she was his girlfriend, she replied: ‘I don’t know him and I don’t even live in Texas.’
He largely dropped out, and took the job at Wendy’s, where co-workers remember him as quiet.
Adrian Mendes, evening manager at the Wendy’s, said Ramos ‘kept to himself mostly.’
‘He felt like the quiet type, the one who doesn’t say much. He didn’t really socialize with the other employees,’ Mendes told CNN.
‘He just worked, got paid, and came in to get his check.’
Mendes said that he did not know Ramos well – he was already employed when Mendes began in February – and didn’t see him most of the time because they were on different shifts.
Ramos worked from 11am to 4pm or 5pm, five days a week.
Ramos was shot and killed by law enforcement at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, after he had murdered 21 people.