Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, interrupted a press conference from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott about the Uvalde shooting Wednesday, shouting at the current governor before being escorted from the auditorium.
He said the response from Abbott and other Texas leaders was "totally predictable," and did nothing to solve the problem of easy access to guns that is plaguing communities across Texas and the nation.
Abbott ordered law enforcement officers to escort O'Rourke, who won his Democratic primary for governor out Tuesday, outside the building.
Several attendees on the stage, including Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, began yelling back, telling O'Rourke to sit down, that he was "pathetic," and that this was no place for politics.
Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke disrupts a press conference held by Governor Greg Abbott the day after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, May 25, 2022. Veronica Cardenas/Reuters
Following the outburst, Abbott resumed the press conference, saying, "Every Texan, every American, has a responsibility. We need to not focus on ourselves and our agendas, we need to focus on the healing and hope that we are providing to those who suffered unconscionable damage to their lives."
The governor went on to say that state laws that allow 18-year-olds to purchase long-barrel rifles have been on the books for 60 years. He said the only new aspect that is driving mass shooting is "the status of mental health in our society."
Outside, O'Rourke held an impromptu press conference, railing against Abbott's record.
"He's refused to expand Medicaid, which would bring $10 billion a year, including mental health care access for people who need it," O'Rourke said. "He's refused to champion red flag laws. ... He's refused to support safe-storage laws so young people cannot get their hands on their parents' weapons."
Growing angrier with each word, O'Rourke said, the gunman "who just turned 18, bought an AR-15 and took it into an elementary school and shot kids in the face and killed them."
"Why are we letting this happen in this country? Why is this happening in this state? Year after year, city after city," O'Rourke said. "This is on all of us if we do not do something and I am going to do something and I'm not alone. The people of Texas are with us, the majority of people in Texas are with us. Well, we've got to stand up to this."
He continued, "We just can't accept this theater or business as usual, and accept the next shooting."
"We could have stopped this if we had stood up after Santa Fe High School, if we had stood up after El Paso," he said of two recent mass shootings in Texas. "We are going to stop the next one. We're standing up right here in Uvalde, Texas, right now. That's why I'm here."
Prior to the interruption, Abbott said the suspected gunman, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, used an AR-15 rifle with .223 caliber ammunition.
He said the suspect appeared to have no adult criminal record, although investigators are looking to see if he had a juvenile record. He also said there was no evidence the suspect was ever treated for mental illness.
"There was no meaningful forewarning of this crime," Abbott said.
He said the only warning came in a direct message Ramos wrote on Facebook about 30 minutes before he allegedly shot his grandmother at her home. Abbott said the suspect wrote to an individual or individuals, whose names were not disclosed, "I'm going to shoot my grandmother."
Abbott said the grandmother, who is in a hospital in critical condition, called 911 to report being shot.
Abbott said that a few minutes after the first direct message, Ramos sent another, allegedly writing, "I shot my grandmother."
The governor said that about 14 minutes before the shooting at Robb Elementary School, the suspect sent out another Facebook direct message, writing, "I'm going to shoot an elementary school."
He said three law enforcement officers were injured when the suspect crashed a vehicle outside the school and allegedly engaged them in a gunfire before entering the school and committing the massacre.
Abbott also said that in addition to the 19 students and two faculty members killed, 17 people suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the shooting, including three law enforcement officers. He said a deputy sheriff was among the parents who lost a daughter in the shooting.
"It could have been worse. The reason it was not worse is because law enforcement officers did what they do," Abbott said, praising the officers who ran into the school and fatally shot the gunman before he could kill more people.