The body of Uvalde gunman Salvador Ramos was left to languish in a morgue for almost a month after the massacre as local funeral homes refused to take it, it has been revealed.
Ramos, 18, murdered 19 innocent students aged between nine and 11 years old and two heroic teachers at Robb Elementary School back on May 24, in what marks one of the deadliest mass shootings in US history.
Over an hour into the siege, law enforcement officers finally stormed the classroom and shot the gunman dead.
While an autopsy was carried out on the killer’s body just three days later on May 27, it would be another three-and-a-half weeks before his remains were finally cremated more than 80 miles away in San Antonio, Texas.
Uvalde coroner Eulalio “Lalo” Diaz Jr. told The Houston Chronicle that the delay came from both an unwillingness from local businesses to have anything to do with the remains of the mass killer and because of tensions within Ramos’ own family.
Mr Diaz said that Uvalde’s two funeral homes – Hillcrest Memorial and Rushing-Estes-Knowles – both refused to take the body of the mass murderer, saying it was a “stressful time”.
“Once they got to him, the funeral homes in town said, ‘We don’t want to deal with him’,” he said.
“I had to store him for three weeks. As the funerals for the victims were going on, I was still dealing with what to do with him. It was a stressful time.”
Taylor Michelle Massey, managing funeral director of Rushing-Estes-Knowles, confirmed to the paper that the funeral home had refused to provide a service for Ramos out of respect for the families of the victims he killed.
“All of our staff grew up in Uvalde County and attended school in Uvalde County and believe that everyone deserves a dignified and respectful funeral service,” she said.
“However, in the weeks following the shootings of May 24th, we were caring for 17 families … through what is probably the most difficult time in their lives.
“Under the circumstances, we did not feel it would be appropriate or in the best interest of the families for which we were caring to take custody of the remains of the individual that caused their pain.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Diaz said that Ramos’ family were also fighting between each other about what to do with the 18-year-old’s remains.
Ramos lived with his grandparents in the lead-up to the massacre. On the morning of the attack, he shot his 66-year-old grandmother Celia Martinez Gonzales in the face before driving to the elementary school.
His grandmother survived the shooting but spent weeks in hospital.
“It took three, three and a half weeks to get him released to the family,” Mr. Diaz said. “They were fighting with each other.”
In the end, Ramos’ remains were sent over 150 miles away to a morgue in Lockhart before a funeral home 40 miles from Uvalde in Castle Ridge, Crystal City, finally agreed to handle his funeral arrangements.
The mass shooter was then cremated even further from the town he terrorized at Crown Cremation Center in San Antonio, more than 80 miles from Uvalde.
Mr. Diaz told the Chronicle that it could take up to a year for the autopsy reports on Ramos and his 21 victims to be completed.
The revelation about the killer’s remains comes as grieving families continue to wait for answers three months on, as it has emerged there were many fatal errors both that day and in the lead-up to the massacre.
This week, attorneys representing victims’ families announced plans to file a sweeping $27bn class action lawsuit against multiple law enforcement agencies, the school district and the manufacturer of the gun used in the attack.
Civil rights attorney Charles Bonner said on Monday that he plans to sue anyone who holds some responsibility for the 24 May massacre including the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, gunmaker Daniel Defense which made the AR-15 used to murder the 21 victims and gun store Oasis Outback where Ramos was able to legally purchase it.
It will also include all of the different law enforcement agencies who responded to the scene of the mass shooting including the Department of Public Safety, Uvalde School Police and Uvalde City Police.
The huge lawsuit – which will also involve gun safety organization Everytown – is expected to be filed in September after the US Justice Department releases the findings of its investigation into the massacre.
Several separate probes have been launched into the failures that day.
Last month, the Texas House committee investigating the massacre released its bombshell report where it slammed the “lackadaisical approach” of law enforcement and cited failures from almost all authorities involved that day.
The Texas House committee’s 77-page report revealed that a staggering 376 law enforcement officers descended on Robb Elementary School to respond to what became the worst mass shooting in Texas history.
Among them were 149 US Border Patrol, 91 state police, 25 Uvalde police officers, 16 sheriff’s deputies and five Uvalde school police officers.
The remaining were federal Drug Enforcement Agency officers, US Marshals and police officers who responded from neighboring counties.
In the damning report, the law enforcement response was described as “chaos” where there was no clear leadership and officers on the scene “failed to prioritize saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety”.
“There was an overall lackadaisical approach by law enforcement at the scene. For many, that was because they were given and relied upon inaccurate information. For others, they had enough information to know better,” the report states.
As a result, a staggering 77 minutes passed from the time when Ramos entered the school at 11.33am and began shooting innocent victims to the time when an elite Border Patrol unit finally breached the classroom and shot him dead at 12.50pm.
Damning surveillance footage shows dozens of armed officers standing in the hallways outside the classroom failing to take action.
The Texas House committee report stated that it was “plausible” that the lengthy delay in taking action cost the lives of some of the victims bleeding out inside the room.
One teacher died of her injuries in an ambulance while three children died after reaching hospital.
To date, only two law enforcement officers are known to have faced any disciplinary action over the bungled law enforcement response.
Uvalde School Police Chief Pete Arredondo, the on-site commander of the incident, has shouldered much of the blame as he failed to send law enforcement officers into the classroom to confront the gunman.
He was placed on administrative leave in June, with calls growing for him to be fired.
A city council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday evening, where the police chief’s fate is expected to be confirmed.
In July, Acting Chief of the Uvalde Police Lt Mariano Pargas was then suspended after the Texas House committee report found that the department disregarded its own active shooting training that day.
The Uvalde City Council has also announced its own investigation into every single one of the 25 Uvalde Police Department officers who responded to the shooting.
The city council investigation is expected to take around two months.