Far-reaching impacts: Rapid City doctor working in Uvalde reflects on community, tragedy
It's the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, and although the actual violence is over, its effects will impact the community for years to come.
UVALDE, T.X. — The tragedy in Texas on Tuesday, May 24, 2022, sent shock waves across the United States. As thoughts, prayers, and support roll in for the residents of Uvalde, many are asking, “Why?” and, “What’s next?” NewsCenter1 got an inside look from a Rapid City woman who has worked as a doctor in Uvalde for nearly a decade.
“I’ve lived in Uvalde for about eight years now, and the town is about 15,000, I’d say, maybe more with [the] surrounding community area,” says Dr. Cherie Hauptmeier-Lewey, a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine at Uvalde Memorial Hospital. “It’s a very, very kind, small, quaint town. It’s very tight-knit, and that’s what I really like about it.”
Hauptmeier-Lewey says she came to Uvalde to work in an underserved area. “I’m very proud of the community I serve, and I’m very thankful to live in this community,” she adds.
That quiet was disrupted Tuesday when a lone gunman — 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, on the run from police — entered Robb Elementary School and killed 19 children and two adults before being shot by police.
Hauptmeier-Lewey has two children of her own, not quite school-aged yet. She says the pain those families are feeling is unimaginable.
“I look at my two children and I just…I can’t imagine them not being there in the morning begging you to read them a story, wanting a hug, wanting me, demanding apple juice,” she says. “I just can’t imagine not having them, and my heart just breaks for those people who’ve lost these beautiful children.”
UVALDE: A TIMELINE
Col. Steven McCraw confirmed that Ramos had asked his sister to help him buy a gun in September 2021, but she “flatly refused.” Ramos had also posted on Instagram prior to the shooting; on February 28, 2022, in an Instagram group chat, “it was discussed about Ramos being a school shooter,” according to Col. McCraw. On March 1, Ramos discussed buying a gun in an Instagram group chat; McCraw said it was a four-person chat. Ramos also posted on Instagram March 14 “ten more days”; a user asked if he was going to shoot up a school and Ramos replied, “No. Stop asking dumb questions and you’ll see,” according to Col. McCraw.
The following is a timeline of the events that unfolded in Uvalde on Tuesday, May 24, as provided by Texas Dept. of Public Safety Director Col. Steven McCraw during a press conference on Friday, May 27.
11:27 a.m.: An exterior door to the school is propped open by a teacher, confirmed by video evidence.
11:28 a.m.: The shooter crashes a truck into a ditch near the school. DPS Regional Director Victor Escalon said in a press conference on Thursday that Ramos fired at two people across the street at a funeral home. Those two people had seen the crash and approached the site, where they saw Ramos with a gun and backpack. He fired at them but did not hit them. Ramos then ran toward the school.
11:30 a.m.: A teacher called 9-1-1 to report a man with a gun.
11:31 a.m.: The shooter reaches the last row of vehicles in the parking lot. He began firing at the school as patrol vehicles reached the funeral home. It was said early on that a school resource officer had confronted Ramos, but that was quickly debunked. “That officer was not on scene; not on campus,” Col. McCraw said Friday. That SRO, according to Col. McCraw, heard the call and drove past the shooter (who was hiding behind a vehicle) on the way to the back of the school, where he thought the shooter was. It turned out to be a teacher.
11:33 a.m.: Ramos walked into the west side of Robb Elementary through a door that had been previously opened by a teacher. He fired more than 100 rounds into two adjoining classrooms.
11:35 a.m.: Three officers with the Uvalde Police Department entered through the same door Ramos had entered. They were later followed by three other Uvalde Police officers and a county deputy sheriff. A total of seven officers were on-scene. The original three approached the door and received “grazing wounds” from rounds fired by the shooter through a closed door.
11:37 a.m.: More gunfire; an additional 16 rounds were fired.
11:51 a.m.: More law enforcement agents arrive on-scene.
12:03 p.m.: Col. McCraw says officers were continuing to arrive in the hallway, and that there were as many as 19 there at that time. At the same time, an unidentified female student from inside room 112 called 9-1-1. That call lasted one minute and twenty-three seconds.
12:10 p.m.: The same person who called at 12:03 called again, saying there were “multiple dead.”
12:13 p.m.: The same person called 9-1-1 again.
12:15 p.m.: Border Patrol Tactical Unit members arrive at Robb Elementary. Col. McCraw says it was “not the entire team.”
12:16 p.m.: The same person who called at 12:03 and 12:13 called again. She said there were “eight to nine students alive.”
12:19 p.m.: An unidentified female in room 111 called 9-1-1 and hung up when another student told her to.
12:21 p.m.: The shooter fires again; Col. McCraw says they believed the shooter was “at the door,” although it’s unclear to which door he’s referring. The shots were heard over the 9-1-1 call.
12:36 p.m.: A 21-second call was made to 9-1-1. The initial caller had called back. She was told to “stay on the line and be very quiet.”
12:43 p.m.: That same caller told the dispatcher to “please send the police now.” This request happened again at 12:47 p.m.
12:46 p.m.: The child caller told 9-1-1 that they could “hear the police next door.”
12:50 p.m.: Officers breach the door using keys obtained from a janitor. Ramos was shot and killed.
12:51 p.m.: Col. McCraw said it was very loud, and “sounded like the officers were moving children out of the room” before the call cuts off.
It’s the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, coming nearly ten years after the Sandy Hook shooting that claimed the lives of 26 people – 20 children and six adults.
The small community of Uvalde is reeling.
“It’s very quiet; very sad,” Hauptmeier-Lewey says. “Everyone just kind of has their head down and just has this overall appearance of…just almost zombie-like in a way. I can tell you that people here are just distraught with grief and with everything they’ve lost. We’re all in different stages of grief right now. It’s shock.”
Uvalde is now at the center of an issue faced by many in small or rural communities – a lack of certain resources.
“Right now, we have an outpouring of help. We have had so many people from surrounding communities reach out, because we’re so under-served with mental health services,” Hauptmeier-Lewey says.
The mental health issue is impacting all areas, including young children struggling to grasp what they’ve been through.
“We can really just include in there the impact that the mental health and the PTSD is going to have on these children who are unable to process what they’ve just been a part of and what they’ve seen…what they’ve felt…what they’ve endured physically as well,” Hauptmeier-Lewey says.
Another repercussion — the financial loss for grieving parents who may need to step away from their jobs to process the trauma. It’s devastating in a community where around 20% live below the poverty line.
“I am concerned long-term as to what will be available, because the repercussions of this, I imagine, is going to last for years,” Hauptmeier-Lewey says. “I have lots of patients that have trouble with consistent housing…having a working vehicle. Finances are already an issue; any financial assistance that people can provide can move mountains.”
UVALDE BY THE NUMBERS
Percentage of people of Caucasian origin: 14.9%
Percentage of people of Hispanic origin: 81.8%
Percentage of persons in poverty: 21%
It’s a tragedy all-too-familiar for most Americans.
“It’s so easy to just be like, ‘I can’t watch this anymore,’ and turn off the TV, but I just really want to encourage others to dig deeper and to… instead of allowing us to believe this is the new norm, to actually become proactive and do something about it,” Hauptmeier-Lewey adds.
Hauptmeier-Lewey says focus should be put on prevention and mental health.
“I’d really like to see this be the last time that a school shooting is on mass media – and at all,” Hauptmeier-Lewey says. “If we could pay attention and give screen time to these people that are doing so much research as to what works and what doesn’t, I really think that’s how we can – in a sense – pay it forward.”