The teenage gunman in the Texas school shooting was bullied, cut his own face and fired a BB gun at people in the years leading up to the deadly attack, friends and family said.
Salvador Ramos, 18, killed 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde before being shot dead by police.
Friends and family say he had a difficult home life, that he was bullied over a childhood speech impediment and that he lashed out violently towards both friends and strangers – recently as well as in the past.
Ramos bought the weapons he used in the mass shooting earlier this month. Just days after he turned 18, he shot and critically injured his grandmother before going to Robb Elementary.
The teenager had a rifle and was wearing a tactical vest, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
His grandfather said he was unaware Ramos kept high-powered assault rifles at home.
“I didn’t know he had weapons,” Rolando Reyes told ABC News. “If I’d have known, I would have reported it.”
“It still hasn’t sunk in,” he said.
Ramos’s grandmother, believed to be 66-year-old Celia Martinez, is in serious condition but alive.
Santos Valdez Jr, 18, told The Washington Post that he had known Ramos since their early days of elementary school, adding that they were friends until Ramos’s behaviour began to grow worse.
Mr Valdez described an encounter when Ramos arrived at a park where they used to play basketball with cuts all over his face, initially saying he had been scratched by a cat.
“Then he told me the truth, that he’d cut up his face with knives over and over and over,” Mr Valdez told the newspaper. “I was like, ‘You’re crazy, bro, why would you do that?’” Ramos said he had done it for fun, Mr Valdez noted.
Those who knew the gunman said he was bullied in middle school and junior high. Considering himself Ramos’s best friend in eighth grade, Stephen Garcia said he had a difficult school experience.
“He would get bullied hard, like bullied by a lot of people,” Mr Garcia told The Washington Post. “Over social media, over gaming, over everything.”
Mr Garcia said Ramos once posted a photo of himself with black eyeliner, prompting a large number of comments that included homophobic language.
Mr Garcia said he tried to defend Ramos, but when he moved to another area of Texas because of his mother’s job, Ramos “just started being a different person”.
“He kept getting worse and worse, and I don’t even know,” Mr Garcia said. Ramos left school when Mr Garcia moved away and began dressing in black, he grew his hair and started wearing military boots.
Classmates said he missed large parts of the school year and wasn’t set to graduate with the others.
Ramos’s cousin Mia, who asked that her last name not be used, told The Post that “he wasn’t very much of a social person after being bullied for the stutter”.
“I think he just didn’t feel comfortable anymore at school,” she said.
Mr Valdez said Ramos and another friend would drive around and shoot strangers with a BB gun, adding that he also would throw eggs at cars.
Ramos posted images of automatic rifles on social media about a year ago that “he would have on his wish list”, Mr Valdez said. He posted images four days ago of two rifles that he called “my gun pics”.
High school classmate Nadia Reyes told The Post that Ramos posted an Instagram story two months ago that showed him screaming at his mother, who he said was trying to make him leave the home.
“He posted videos on his Instagram where the cops were there and he’d call his mom a b**** and say she wanted to kick him out,” Ms Reyes said. “He’d be screaming and talking to his mom really aggressively.”
Nextdoor neighbour Ruben Flores, 41, told the paper that Ramos had “a pretty rough life with his mom”.
Mr Flores said the issues grew more clear over the years, as police would show up at Ramos’s home and neighbours saw fights between the mother and son.