Texas authorities said Friday that the gunman who killed 19 children and two teachers inside an elementary school discussed his interest in buying a gun in private online conversations, but backed away from earlier descriptions that he made public threats less than an hour before the attack.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said Wednesday, a day after the shooting, that “the only information that was known in advance was posted by the gunman on Facebook approximately 30 minutes before reaching the school.” Abbott’s claim prompted questions about whether technology companies could have provided advance warning.
But on Friday, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety said the gunman made the threatening comments in a private message.
“I want to correct something that was said early on in the investigation, that he posted on Facebook publicly that he was going to kill, that he was going to shoot his grandmother and secondly after that that he was going to, that he had shot her and that third he was going to go shoot up a school,” Steven McCraw said. “That did not happen.”
Facebook had already noted on Wednesday that the threats were in direct text messages, not a public post.
McCraw did not say to whom 18-year-old Salvador Ramos sent the messages.
McCraw also told reporters Friday that Ramos asked his sister to help him buy a gun in September 2021, but that she “flatly refused.” He did not say how authorities learned of that request.
McCraw shared information from four more of Ramos’ social media private messages.
In a February 28 four-person chat, McCraw said that “Ramos being a school shooter” was discussed.
In a March 1 four-person chat, he said Ramos discussed buying a gun.
In a March 3 four-person chat, another person said “word on the street is that you’re buying a gun.” McCraw said Ramos replied, “Just bought something.”
On March 14, McCraw said Ramos shared the words “10 more days” in a social media post. Another user asked “Are you going to shoot up a school or something?” McCraw said.
He said Ramos replied, “No and stop asking dumb questions and you’ll see.”
McCraw did not identify any of the other people included in those chat groups.
The department did not immediately respond to a request Friday for more detail, including screenshots of the communications mentioned during the news conference.
Authorities have said Ramos legally purchased two guns not long before the school attack: an AR-style rifle on May 17 and a second rifle on May 20. He had turned 18 just days earlier, permitting him to buy a rifle under federal law.
Friday’s briefing came after authorities spent three days providing often conflicting and incomplete information about the law enforcement response in Uvalde.