A Republican congressman repeated a claim — still circulating online despite having been debunked — that the suspected gunman in a deadly school shooting in Texas that killed 21 people was a “transsexual leftist illegal alien.”
U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) tweeted the claim despite law enforcement authorities having already identified the suspect as Salvador Ramos, an 18-year-old male resident of Uvalde, Texas, reports Business Insider.
The tweet was later deleted, two hours after being published. The congressman has not yet commented on or responded to inquiries about his tweet.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott revealed during a Tuesday press conference that the shooter was a student at Uvalde High School, just two miles away from Robb Elementary School, where the shooting occurred. Abbott also noted that Ramos, who was killed during the attack, was a U.S. citizen.
Texas State Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) later told CNN that Texas State Police had informed him that Ramos was originally from North Dakota but later moved to Uvalde.
He had most recently been living with his grandmother, whom he allegedly shot, leaving her in critical condition, prior to driving to the elementary school.
The false claim that Ramos was transgender was bolstered after photos of a transgender woman, unrelated to the attack, were cribbed from her Reddit account and used to push the narrative — eagerly repeated among right-wing circles — that the shooter was a leftist.
The allegations also appeared on 4chan, a far-right messaging board, according to podcaster Matt Binder.
The rumors continued to circulate even after the trans woman whose photos were stolen wrote a Reddit post saying, “it’s not me. I don’t even live in Texas.” In the comments, they added, “they just took my photos and used it to spread misinformation.”
The fact that Ramos had already been reported dead and that a live person had obviously written the Reddit post failed to sway some online users, several of whom still insisted that the shooter was transgender.
Other groups corrected their initial statements, but balked at being “lectured” by people seeking to politicize the shooting to push through restrictions on firearms.
“Those images are unconfirmed & unverified,” right-wing journalist Andy Ngo tweeted. “Please stop sharing them because in the event they aren’t Ramos, you’re harming someone who had nothing to do with the shooting.”
Christina Pushaw, the press secretary for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, replied to Ngo’s tweet, adding that “some of the pics of trans people they’re posting are obviously not Ramos.”
According to CBS, law enforcement authorities say Ramos purchased two rifles legally from a local dealer shortly after his 18th birthday earlier this month, as well as 375 rounds of 5.56 ammunition.
After shooting his grandmother, he allegedly crashed his car outside Robb Elementary School around 11:30 a.m. before entering the building and barricading himself in a classroom. He then shot 19 students and two teachers, making the shooting the deadliest to occur at an elementary school in the United States since the 2012 attack at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.
Authorities say two local police officers were wounded as they exchanged gunfire with Ramos.
A Border Patrol agent who was working nearby rushed into the school without waiting for backup and shot and killed the gunman, sustaining non-life-threatening injuries in the process.
Adrian Mendez, a night manager at a local Wendy’s in Uvalde, where Ramos had worked for a year until a month ago, told The New York Times that the 18-year-old was a loner who “went out of the way to keep by himself” and didn’t socialize with other employees.
In addition to being involved in several fistfights, Ramos allegedly fired a BB gun at random people and egged cars in the years prior to Tuesday’s attack.
Family and friends of Ramos told The Washington Post that Ramos was bullied over speech impediments, including a stutter and a lisp, and would often lash out violently at friends and strangers alike.
One friend, Santos Valdez, Jr., told the Post that Ramos would cut up his face with knives over and over, one time allegedly saying he did it “for fun.”
Another friend, Stephen Garcia, said Ramos was regularly bullied for his speech impediment, his social media posts, the video games he’d play, and a host of other reasons.
Ramos once posted a photo of himself with black eyeliner, which led the bullies to hurl homophobic slurs at him. He later began dressing in all black, grew out his hair, and started wearing military boots.
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