World

What we know about the Uvalde, Texas, shooting victims

Distraught families gathered at a local civic centre and turned to social media to mourn the 19 children and two teachers killed in the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, now the deadliest school shooting since the Sandy Hook tragedy in 2012.

19 children and 2 of their teachers were killed in their classroom Tuesday

Composite illustration features the 21 victims — including 19 children and two teachers — of a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24. (Family handouts/Reuters)

One student was an avid runner, so fast she swept the races at field day. Another was learning football plays from his grandfather. One girl sensed something was wrong and wanted to skip school.

On Wednesday, stories began to emerge about the lives of the 19 fourth-graders — "precious individuals," according to the school district superintendent — and their two teachers who were gunned down behind a barricaded door at Robb Elementary School in the southwestern Texas town of Uvalde.

All of those who died were in the same fourth grade classroom, where the shooter barricaded himself and opened fire on the children and teachers, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told a news conference Wednesday. 

School district Superintendent Hal Harrell fought back tears as he spoke of the children and their teachers.

"You can just tell by their angelic smiles that they were loved," Harrell said of the children. "That they loved coming to school, that they were just precious individuals."

The two teachers "poured their heart and soul" into their work, he said.

WATCH | Bus driver says everyone knew each other in the community: 

'It's personal': Bus driver on children killed in Texas school attack

1 month ago
Duration 0:46
Sylvia Uriegas, a school bus driver in Uvalde, Texas, tells CBC News's Susan Ormiston that the loss of 19 children is 'personal' because she drove many of them to school every day.

Among the students killed was 10-year-old Eliahna Garcia, whose relatives learned late Tuesday that she was among those killed, said her aunt, Siria Arizmendi.

"She was very happy and very outgoing," said Arizmendi, a fifth-grade teacher at Flores Elementary School in the same school district.

"She loved to dance and play sports. She was big into family, enjoyed being with the family."

Eliahana Cruz Torres loved to dance and play sports. (Eliahana Torres' Family/Reuters)

Ryan Ramirez rushed to Robb Elementary when he heard about the shooting, hoping to find his daughter, Alithia, and take her home. But Alithia, too, was among the victims.

Ramirez's Facebook page includes a photo, now shown around the world, of the little girl wearing the multi-coloured T-shirt that announced she was out of "single digits" after turning 10 years old.

The same photo was posted again Wednesday with no words, but with Alithia wearing angel wings.

Alithia Ramirez was one of the 19 children killed in Tuesday's shooting. (Alithia Ramirez's Family/Reuters)

Honour roll students

Alexandria Aniyah Rubio, a fourth grader at Robb Elementary, was beaming with pride on Tuesday in a family photo posted on Facebook by her mother showing the girl holding an "A" honour roll certificate she earned for excellent grades.

Hours after the photo was taken, a gunman burst into Alexandria's classroom and killed her, 18 other children and two teachers in the deadliest U.S. school shooting in nearly a decade.

"We told her we loved her and would pick her up after school," said Alexandria's mother Kimberly Mata-Rubio in the Facebook post. "We had no idea this was goodbye."

Alexandria Aniyah Rubio, one of the victims of the shooting, is seen in this undated photo obtained from social media. (Alexandria Aniyah Rubio's family/Reuters)

Maite Rodriguez, 10, also made the honour roll for straight As and Bs this year and was publicly recognized at an assembly on Tuesday, said Ana Rodriguez, her mother. The day she died was supposed to be a day of triumph.

"She worked hard, I only encouraged her," Rodriguez said in an interview Thursday at her dining room table, which displayed a bouquet of red roses, the honour roll certificate and photos of Maite.

Maite was "focused, competitive, smart, bright, beautiful, happy," her mother said.

As a kindergartner, Maite said she wanted to be a marine biologist and held firmly to that goal. She researched a program at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi and told her mother she was set on studying there.

"She was just so driven. She was definitely special. She was going to be something, she was going to be something very, very special."

Maite Rodriguez is seen with the honour roll certificates she had earned Tuesday. (Maite Rodriguez's Family/Reuters)

Vincent Salazar's 11-year-old daughter, Layla, was among those killed. She loved to swim and dance to videos on TikTok, her father said. An avid runner, she won six races at the school's field day, and Salazar proudly posted a photo of Layla showing off two of her ribbons on Facebook.

Each morning as he drove her to school in his pickup, Salazar would play Sweet Child O' Mine, by Guns N' Roses and they'd sing along, he said. She was excited about seeing the new Marvel movie, Thor: Love and Thunder.

"She was just a whole lot of fun," he said.

'The sweetest little boy'

Manny Renfro said he got word Tuesday that his grandson, eight-year-old Uziyah Garcia, was among those killed.

"The sweetest little boy that I've ever known," Renfro said. "I'm not just saying that because he was my grandkid."

Renfro said Uziyah last visited him in San Angelo, Texas, during spring break.

"We started throwing the football together and I was teaching him pass patterns. Such a fast little boy and he could catch a ball so good," he said. "There were certain plays that I would call that he would remember and he would do it exactly like we practised."

This March 2022 photo provided by Manny Renfro shows his grandson, Uziyah Garcia, while on spring break in San Angelo, Texas. The eight-year-old was also killed Tuesday. (Manny Renfro/The Associated Press)

Lisa Garza, 54, of Arlington, Texas, mourned the death of her 10-year-old cousin, Xavier Javier Lopez, who had been eagerly awaiting a summer of swimming.

"He was just a loving … little boy, just enjoying life, not knowing that this tragedy was going to happen," she said. "He was very bubbly, loved to dance with his brothers, his mom. This has just taken a toll on all of us."

She also lamented what she described as lax gun laws.

"We should have more restrictions, especially if these kids are not in their right state of mind and all they want to do is just hurt people, especially innocent children going to the schools," Garza said.

Arizmendi also spoke angrily, through tears, about how the shooter managed to get a gun.

"It's just difficult to understand or to put into words," she said. "I just don't know how people can sell that type of a gun to a kid, 18 years old. What is he going to use it for but for that purpose?"

Xavier Lopez is seen in this undated photo obtained from social media. (Xavier Lopez's family/Reuters)

'I miss you so much'

When thinking back on her deceased sister Tess Mata, Faith Mata said she mostly remembers the fun times they had together.

"Sissy I miss you so much," Faith wrote on Facebook.

"I just want to hold you and tell you how pretty you are, I want to take you outside and practice softball, I want to go on one last family vacation, I want to hear your contagious laugh, and I want you to hear me tell you how much I love you."

Tess Mata was also one of the children killed Tuesday at Robb Elementary. (Tess Mata's family/Reuters)

2 sets of cousins died together

Javier Cazares said he found out Tuesday afternoon that his nine-year-old daughter Jacklyn Cazares was killed in her classroom. She was with a group of five girls, including her second cousin, Annabelle Rodriguez, who formed a tight group of friends.

"They are all gone now," Cazares said.

The extended families of the slain cousins gathered Wednesday to mourn and comfort each other over barbecue.

Cazares described his daughter as a "firecracker" who "had a voice, she didn't like bullies, she didn't like kids being picked on."

"All in all, full of love. She had a big heart," he said

Jacklyn (Jackie) Cazares died with her group of friends, including her second cousin, Annabelle. (Jackie Cazares's Family/Reuters)
Annabelle Rodriguez is seen with her honour roll certificate. She died in the same classroom as her second cousin, Jackie, and their tightknit group of friends. (Annabelle Rodriguez's Family/Reuters)

"My baby you didn't deserve this," Veronica Luevanos, the mother of fourth grader Jailah Silguero, wrote on Facebook on Wednesday.

The post also mourned the girl's classmates, teachers and cousin, Jayce Carmelo Luevanos, also killed in the shooting.

Jailah Silguero was killed alongside her cousin, Jayce. (Jailah Silguero's and Jayce Carmelo Luevanos's family/Reuters)
Jayce Carmelo Luevanos died in the same classroom as his cousin, Jailah. (Jailah Silguero's and Jayce Carmelo Luevanos's family/Reuters)

Jailah's friend, Nevaeh Alyssa Bravo, also was killed. Her aunt noted the child's first name is "heaven" spelled backward.

In a Facebook posting, Yvonne White described Nevaeh and Jailah as "Our Angels."

'Our hype girl'

In another social media post, Steven Garcia paid sad tribute to his lost daughter: "Our Ellie was a doll and was the happiest ever. I was gonna DJ for her at her party like she wanted me too!!!"

Uvalde resident Erica Mena also mourned Ellie, who played on a local youth basketball team. She shared a series of pictures on Facebook of the team during games and holding trophies.

"Ellie was our hype girl and the heart of the team , she never missed a practice and was the loudest when it came to cheering for her team!" Mena wrote on Facebook.

Ellie Garcia was known by some as their 'hype girl' for her enthusiasm as part of her basketball team. (Ellie Garcia's family/Reuters)

Federico Torres rushed to the school Tuesday when he heard about the shooting and waited for news about his 10-year-old son Rogelio.

He told KHOU-TV on Tuesday he was praying that "my son is found safe. ... Please if you know anything, let us know."

Rogelio Torres, one of the victims, is seen in this undated photo obtained from social media. (Rojelio Torres's family/Reuters)

'She was just trying to call the cops'

Angel Garza, a medical assistant with a stepdaughter at the school, arrived soon after the shooting and found himself aiding students streaming out injured and shaken up.

One girl was covered in blood and he asked if she had been shot.

"I'm not hurt. He shot my best friend," the girl said. "She's not breathing. She was just trying to call the cops."

And then she named the friend, Amerie Jo Garza, his stepdaughter.

Amerie was a happy child who had just gotten her first cell phone for turning 10 and had just gotten a certificate the morning of the shooting for making the honour roll. She also loved to paint and draw and work in clay.

Garza said that in his grief he wonders what happened in those brief moments before Amerie was killed, if she said anything to the shooter, if he had seen her reach for her phone. And then he remembered the moment she got the phone for her birthday, and her face.

"It just lit up with the happiest expression," said Garza. "She was so sweet."

Amerie Jo Garza is seen in this undated photo obtained from social media. (Amerie Jo Garza's Family/Reuters)

Teachers were mothers, too

Slain fourth-grade teacher Eva Mireles, 44, was remembered as a loving mother and wife. "She was adventurous. … She is definitely going to be very missed," said her 34-year-old relative Amber Ybarra, of San Antonio.

As Ybarra prepared to give blood for the wounded, she wondered how no one noticed trouble with the shooter in time to stop him.

"To me, it's more about raising mental health awareness," said Ybarra, a wellness coach who attended Robb Elementary herself. "Someone could possibly have seen a dramatic change before something like this happened."

In a post on the school's website at the start of the school year, Mireles had introduced herself to her new students.

"Welcome to the 4th grade! We have a wonderful year ahead of us!" she wrote, noting she had been teaching for 17 years, loved running and hiking, and had a "supportive, fun, and loving family." She mentioned that her husband was a school district police officer, and that they had a grown daughter and three "furry friends."

The other slain teacher, Irma Garcia, had been a teacher for 23 years, all of them at Robb Elementary. She had been previously named the school's teacher of the year and was a 2019 recipient of the Trinity Prize for Excellence in Education from Trinity University in San Antonio.

The grief around her death only grew Thursday with word that her husband had also died.

Joe Garcia, 50, had dropped off flowers at his wife's memorial on Thursday morning, the New York Times reported. He then "pretty much just fell over" after returning home and died of a heart attack, his nephew John Martinez told the newspaper. 

Married for 24 years, the couple had four children.

Irma Garcia was one of the teachers killed with her students. She was also a mother of four. (Irma Garcia's Family/Reuters)

Survivors grieve

Even for the survivors, there was grief.

Lorena Auguste was substitute teaching at Uvalde High School when she heard about the shooting. She began frantically texting her niece, a fourth-grader at Robb Elementary, until Auguste heard from her sister that the child was OK.

Auguste said her niece asked her that night, "Tia, why did they do this to us? We're good kids, we didn't do anything wrong."

Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home, which is located across the street from Robb Elementary School, said in a Facebook post that it would be assisting families of the shooting victims with no cost for funerals.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story erroneously reported Layla Salazar's age. She was 11 years old, not 10.
    May 26, 2022 9:36 PM ET

With files from Reuters

now