The gunman in Uvalde, Texas sent three messages on Facebook describing his plans before he killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school yesterday.
“I’m going to shoot my grandmother,” 18-year-old Salvador Ramos wrote. Then he said, “I shot my grandmother,” and finally, “I’m going to shoot an elementary school.” It is not clear to whom he sent the messages before entering Robb Elementary School Tuesday.
The online messages were first publicly described by Texas Governor Greg Abbott in a Wednesday afternoon press conference.
“There was no meaningful forewarning of this crime other than what I’m about to tell you,” Abbott said. “As of this time the only information that was known in advance was posted by the gunman on Facebook approximately 30 minutes before reaching the school.”
Abbott characterized the gunman’s Facebook activity as “posts,” a term that connotes public visibility, but a Meta spokesperson has since said that Ramos’ chilling messages were private, sent via Messenger rather than made public on his profile’s timeline. Meta, Facebook’s parent company, declined to respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.
“The Messages Gov. Abbott described were private one-to-one text messages that were discovered after the terrible tragedy occurred,” wrote Meta spokesman Andy Stone.
Ramos shot and injured his grandmother prior to driving to Robb. She called the police after he left for the school, which Abbott mentioned earlier in the press conference.
It is currently unknown who Ramos’ messages were directed to, or if the receiver saw the messages in the minutes prior to the shooting. Facebook has previously confirmed that it does monitor users’ messenger chats for abuse like harmful images and malware links, according to a 2021 company blogpost and 2018 reporting from Bloomberg. The platform also lets users report direct messages that violate community standards. However, it is unknown if, or to what extent, the company monitors chat text. And, counter to some circulating claims, Facebook has denied using targeting advertising based on the content of private messages.
Update 5/25/2022, 5:10 p.m. ET: This post has been updated with additional content from a Facebook company blogpost.