(NewsNation) — Devastation struck a tight-knit Texas town Tuesday, after a shooter unleashed gunfire inside an elementary school. The Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed that 19 children, two teachers and the gunman have died in the rampage. Several others are injured, including a Border Patrol agent, following the deadliest shooting at a grade school since Sandy Hook almost a decade ago.
Investigators say 18-year-old Salvador Ramos entered the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, wearing body armor and carrying a rifle. The Texas Department of Safety says he fired shots indiscriminately inside the school. According to the agency, Ramos returned fire once law enforcement went into the school. A Border Patrol agent working close by ran into the school without waiting for backup and shot and killed the gunman, according to a law enforcement official speaking to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.
Questions still remain about a potential motive for the tragedy. But according to Texas state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, Ramos had hinted on social media an attack could be coming and that the shooter “suggested the kids watch out.” Gutierrez said before going to the elementary school, Ramos killed his grandmother with two rifles he bought on his birthday.
“That was the first thing he did on his 18th birthday,” Gutierrez said.
As authorities try to piece together what happened and lift clues from the scene, they insist Ramos acted alone and no other suspects are being sought at this time.
Uvalde is about 85 miles west of San Antonio. The small Texas town is home to about 16,000 people where “everyone knows each other.” Robb Elementary School has about 600 students enrolled in second, third and fourth grades.
As of 7 p.m., some families were still searching for their children, independent journalist Ali Bradley said on “NewsNation Prime.” Some families have gathered at the civic center while awaiting information.
Lt. Chris Olivarez with the Texas Department of Public Safety told NewsNation at around 9:15 p.m. that authorities are still trying to find and inform parents.
“We are constantly updating that. That is a priority right now to identify those families as well, try to reunite them with their children and also to identify those that are deceased,” Olivarez said.
In wake of the tragedy, the school superintendent ended the school year two days early and said his heart is broken. He added that grief counseling will be made available to the community Wednesday at the civic center.
Zinna Aguilera calls the Robb Elementary area “home” and could have never imagined something as horrific as this would happen there.
“I come from a family of 13 and we all attended Robb Elementary,” Aguilera said. “I grew up a block from the school, we all walked to school everyday. I’ve now lived across the street for 32 years, my grandchildren, my daughters went there anyone you can imagine that lives around this neighborhood has come to Robb.” Later adding, “Never in my world would I imagine this would happen across from my house.”
In shock and disbelief, Hugo Avila waited for a phone call as his cousin was taken back to surgery. His cousin has worked as a teacher at Robb Elementary for years, but Tuesday she was shot in the stomach.
“This whole thing is crazy. It’s hard to process it. I’m just glad she’s OK. I feel for everyone who wasn’t so fortunate,” Avila, who attended Robb Elementary himself, said.
“It’s crazy to think that someone would do that in such a small community,” Avila added. “I can’t fathom what the community is going through.”
After returning from a trip to Asia, President Joe Biden addressed the nation about the shooting, turning to his faith and asking for prayers for all involved.
“Another massacre. Uvalde, Texas. An elementary school. Beautiful, innocent, second, third, fourth graders. How many scores of little children who witnessed what happened, see their friends die, as if they’re in a battlefield for God’s sake. They’ll live with it for the rest of their lives,” President Biden said.
“The parents who will never see their child again. Never have them jump in bed and cuddle with them. Parents who will never be the same. To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away. There’s a hollowness in your chest …. It’s never quite the same,” Biden continued.
While showing compassion for those directly impacted by the shooting, Biden also firmly called for action and questioned: “As a nation, we have to ask when in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God’s name are we going to do what needs to be done?”
According to the president, there have been more than 900 incidents of gunfire reported on school grounds since the Sandy Hook shooting.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, whose jurisdiction includes Newton, Connecticut, where the Sandy Hook shooting happened, made a plea for change on the Senate floor after hearing of the Uvalde shooting.
“Why are you here if not to solve a problem as existential as this?” Murphy said to fellow lawmakers. “This isn’t inevitable. These kids weren’t ‘unlucky.’ This only happens in our country and nowhere else. Nowhere else do little kids go to school thinking that they might be shot that day.”
Vice President Kamala Harris echoed the sentiment, saying, “Enough is enough.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Abbott is urging Texans to come together.
“Texans are grieving for the victims of this senseless crime & for the community of Uvalde,” Governor Abbott said. “Cecilia & I mourn this horrific loss & urge all Texans to come together.”
Local hospitals encouraged people looking for ways to help to consider donating blood. Find more information here.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This story is developing and will be updated. Refresh for updates.