Gov. Greg Abbott (R) made a brief appearance at a fundraiser on Tuesday after learning a gunman opened fire at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, killing 19 children and two fourth-grade teachers.
Abbott on Wednesday confirmed his stop at the previously scheduled fundraiser at a private home in Walker County, about 300 miles from the shooting at Robb Elementary School.
“On the way back to Austin, I stopped and let people know that I could not stay, that I needed to go and I wanted them to know what happened and get back to Austin so that I could continue my collaboration with Texas law enforcement, and to make sure that all the needs were being met here in the Uvalde area,” Abbott said during a news conference meant to update reporters on the mass shooting.
The day of the shooting, Abbott held a briefing on wildfires in Taylor County, according to a spokesperson’s statement cited by The Texas Tribune. He had just learned of the Uvalde shooting and provided an update during the Taylor County appearance, according to the outlet.
Later, he attended the campaign fundraiser in Walker County.
During the news conference acknowledging his fundraising stop, Abbott was confronted by former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic nominee challenging Abbott in the November governor’s election. O’Rourke accused Abbott of failing to take action to prevent mass shootings.
“This is on you,” O’Rourke told Abbott before law enforcement escorted him from the room. “Until you choose to do something different, this will continue to happen. Somebody needs to stand up for the children of this state or they will continue to be killed just like they were killed in Uvalde yesterday.”
Later on Twitter, O’Rourke ripped Abbott for the fundraising appearance, saying the governor “was counting dollars while they were counting bodies.”
Abbott ducked O’Rourke’s accusation on gun policy.
“What they need now more than ever is our love,” Abbott said of the Uvalde community. “What they need is uplifting from all of our fellow Texans and all of our fellow Americans.”
“The reality is, as horrible as what happened, it could have been worse,” Abbott continued. “The reason it was not worse is because law enforcement officials did what they do: They showed amazing courage by running toward gunfire for the singular purpose of trying to save lives.”
Onlookers said police were “unprepared” and hesitant to enter the school after the attack began, according to The Associated Press.
The gunman, who barricaded himself inside a classroom where he shot all of his victims, was eventually shot dead by a Border Patrol team.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.