‘The sweetest’: grieving families identify child, teacher victims of Uvaldes massacre
25th May 2022

Screams could be heard throughout the night from the Willie de Leon civic centre in Ulvades, Texas, as distraught families were told the awful news of the mounting death toll at Robb Elementary school.

At midnight Tuesday (Wednesday AEST), the toll stood at 19 children shot dead, two adults at the school slain, the 18-year-old shooter Salvador Ramos killed and his own grandmother in critical condition after he fired at her too.

By nightfall, names of those killed during the attack at Robb Elementary School in the town of Uvalde had begun to emerge.

Two 10-year-olds, an 8-year-old and one teacher have been identified as victims of the massacre, with more names to come as the grieving post their tributes.

Victims: Uziyah Garcia, Xavier Lope, fourth-grade teacher Eva Mireles, and Amerie Jo Garza.

One man at the civic centre walked away sobbing into his phone “she is gone”.

Behind the building, a woman stood by herself, alternately crying and yelling into her phone, shaking her fist and stamping her feet.

Texan grandfather Manny Renfro said he got word in the hours after the shooting that his grandson, 8-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 during spring break.

A photo from March 2022 of Uziyah Garcia, provided by his grandfather Manny Renfro.

“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,” Renfro said. “There were certain plays that I would call that he would remember and he would do it exactly like we practiced.”

When news first broke that Ramos had opened fire on the Texan school, Laura Mejia shared a photo to Facebook of her 10-year-old cousin Xavier Lopez, a student at the school, in the hope he’d be located safely.

Not even an hour later, she updated the post with the news he’d been killed.

“Fly high handsome angel. Till we meet again” she wrote.

Xavier Lopez was 10 years old and in grade 4.

According to Mejia, Lopez’s mother attended an awards ceremony at the school just hours before her son was killed.

Amerie Jo Garza celebrated her 10th birthday just two weeks before she was killed in the shooting. Her father Angel Garza told US news station ABC News he’d met with US marshalls who informed him she was one of the many students killed.

“My little love is now flying high with the angels above. Please don’t take a second for granted. Hug your family. Tell them you love them. I love you Amerie Jo. Watch over your baby brother for me,” he said in a statement.

10-year-old Amerie Jo Garza in a photo provided by the family.

Fourth grade teacher Eva Mireles has been identified as one of the adults who was killed.

Mireles’ husband, Ruben Ruiz, is a police officer at the school district’s police force, the agency investigating the massacre.

In a short description penned to the school’s website, Mireles wrote that she had “a supportive, fun, and loving family” comprised of her husband, her college graduate daughter, and “three furry friends”.

Fourth-grade teacher Eva Mireles was one of the first victoms identifed.

Her aunt, Lydia Martinez Delgado, grieved for her niece in a Facebook post, asking for prayers for her family and the entire town of Uvalde. The community, about 80 miles (130 km) west of San Antonio, has about 16,000 residents, nearly 80 per cent of them Hispanic or Latino, according to U.S. Census data.

“I’m furious that these shootings continue. These children are innocent. Rifles should not be easily available to all. This is my hometown, a small community of less than 20,000. I never imagined this would happen to especially loved ones,” Martinez Delgado said in a statement.

“All we can do is pray hard for our country, state, schools, and especially the families of all.”

Ramos began the massacre by shooting his grandmother who remains hospitalised in a critical condition. He then headed to the school with two military-style rifles he’d purchased on his birthday, arriving at 11.30am and opening fire.

He was eventually shot dead by local authorities on the school grounds.

The archbishop of San Antonio, Gustavo Garcia-Siller, comforts families outside the Civic Centre. Credit:AP

There were two days left in the school year when the massacre unfolded. Children had been encouraged to come to school in colourful clothes and fun shoes for a “footloose and fancy-free” theme day.

But now the school district has cancelled classes for the remainder of the school year and has established grief counselling for the survivors.

Adolfo Cruz, a 69-year-old air conditioning repairman, was still outside Robb Elementary School in the town of Uvalde as the sun set, waiting for word on his 10-year-old great-granddaughter, Elijah Cruz Torres, whose whereabouts remained unknown to family.

Cruz drove to the scene after receiving a tearful and terrifying call from his daughter shortly after the first reports that an 18-year-old gunman had opened fire at around 11.30am. While he waited outside the school Tuesday night, his family was at the hospital and civic centre waiting for any potential word on her condition.

Çruz called the waiting the heaviest moment of his life.

“I hope she is alive,” Cruz said. “They are waiting for an update.”

“It’s a shock for me. I also feel for all the other families. This is a small community. Uvalde has always been real friendly. People are real friendly,” Cruz said.

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

With Reuters, AP

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