Today, 19 children and two adults were senselessly murdered at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in yet another American mass shooting. The suspect, also dead, is 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, who allegedly killed his grandmother before the rampage.
Also before the killings, the shooter apparently traded Instagram messages with a young woman who was confused — and alarmed — by his attentions. When his name was released to the public, and his account was found (before being scrubbed from the platform), people immediately linked her to him because they were following each other, which she explained in a sequence of Stories on Instagram after sharing their private exchanges. In those messages, we learn that Ramos tagged her in a photo of his guns, for reasons she didn’t understand. He also seemed to cryptically refer to his plans for violence and told her to be “grateful” that she was tagged.
]Amid posting the screenshots, the young woman — whose identity and account information we are not revealing — wrote that she does not live in Texas and did not know Ramos. She expressed grief over the shooting and, in a heartbreaking message, her feelings of guilt for not doing something to stop him. She also revealed a message to the effect that people thought she was Ramos’ girlfriend and “finishing” the shooting.
These images soon appeared on 4chan’s toxic /pol/ board, where users speculated that the shooter could have tagged the woman in order to draw suspicion to her. Given the outlandish social media rumors that she found herself responding to in the aftermath of the massacre, it’s not a far-fetched idea. Others debated whether she had an obligation to report the shooter’s “I’m about to” message in light of his posting her user handle on an image of his rifles — and the likelihood that law enforcement could turn her into a scapegoat. One noted that it was “funny” for him to implicate her, as it will “probably fuck her up a bit,” another plausible motive for the picture. Someone else asserted that she was probably enjoying “all of the attention.” Meanwhile, the comments on her last Instagram selfie, shared 21 hours ago, are full of hate, threats, conspiracy theories and abuse, as well as blame for not contacting authorities.
As of this moment, it remains unclear why the shooter targeted the children at Robb Elementary School. But it looks like he must have hoped this monstrous violence would have a profound and lingering effect on a woman he appeared to only have brief contact with over social media, who was confused and frightened by his behavior — and now faces hostile scrutiny from all corners.