Luna, who is tall and solidly built and forty-five years old, grew up in Batesville, a tiny town twenty miles to the southeast, and graduated from Uvalde High School. He started working at the Leader-News in 2006. The paper has a full-time staff of ten and publishes twice a week. “I set up subscriptions, I build ads, I sell ads, I pitch ads, I do the layouts, I answer calls, I deliver papers—I do it all,” Luna said. “It’s not just me. We all do a lot.”
Luna dropped off his girlfriend, who is also the paper’s managing editor, Meghann Garcia, at her home, and headed to the scene with his digital camera and a handheld video camera. The day before, he had covered a serious house fire, in which, it was feared, someone had died. (A woman who lived there was unaccounted for, but, fortunately, she was not in the house when it burned.) Even as he drove toward Robb Elementary for what he guessed was some sort of domestic dispute, he was thinking of the fire as the big news of the week.
He parked his car a few blocks from the school, assuming that law enforcement would’ve set up a perimeter and he wouldn’t be able to get any closer. “Even though I’m the size that I am, I like to blend in,” he explained. “That means I’m not in the way, first of all. And No. 2, it lets you observe everything. They’re doing their job and I’m doing mine.”
When he saw a cluster of parents gathered closer to the school, he went to join them. It was around noon, half an hour after the first 911 call, and, although Luna didn’t know it, the shooter was still alive, barricaded in a fourth-grade classroom. “My idea still is, someone ran in there and he’s hiding,” he said. “I thought, They’re going to find him and lead him out the back in handcuffs. A perfect photo of him being caught and all the kids safe. That’s what I was waiting for.”
Someone pointed out the pickup that the suspect had driven into a drainage culvert across the street. Luna zoomed in with his telephoto lens and saw an unzipped black duffel bag and an AR-15-style rifle. A man told Luna that the suspect had scaled the six-foot fence and taken two other bags with him. As the seriousness of the situation dawned on him, Luna kept taking pictures: “I told myself that, no matter what happens, I will push that button.”
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