Community mourns as identities of Texas school shooting victims emerge

by Chris Lange

Chris Lange, FISM News


As the nation struggles to come to grips with Tuesday’s mass shooting at a rural Texas elementary school, the names and stories of the 19 students and two teachers killed in the horrific attack have begun to emerge.

Hours after a lone gunman barricaded himself inside a fourth-grade classroom inside the Robb Elementary School in the town of Uvalde and opened fire on the children and their teacher, families of students made desperate pleas on social media to help locate their missing children. By late Tuesday, names and heartbreaking photos of smiling children killed in the senseless attack began to emerge, as well as details about their lives, as reported by the Associated Press,  Fox News, and numerous other news outlets.

Javier Cazares was grief-stricken upon learning that his 9-year-old daughter, Jackly, was among the victims killed in the attack in the classroom she shared with a group of five close friends, including her cousin Annabelle Rodriguez.

“They are all gone now,” Cazares said.

The father of another victim, 10-year old Layla Salazar, said the two enjoyed singing together in his pickup truck every morning as he drove her to school. Vincent Salazar said his daughter loved to swim and dance to TikTok videos and had won six races at the school’s field day. He proudly posted a photo of Layla beaming as she held up two of her ribbons in a Facebook post.

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

Manny Renfro called his 8-year-old grandson, Uziyah Garcia, “The sweetest little boy that I’ve ever known,” adding “I’m not just saying that because he was my grandkid.” Renfro said he last saw Uziyah over 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,” Renfro said. “There were certain plays that I would call that he would remember and he would do it exactly like we practiced.”

Veronica Luevanos told reporters that her 10-year-old daughter, Jailah Nicole Silguero, who was among the victims, had asked if she could stay home from school that day, as though she sensed something bad would happen. Luevanos openly wept over her decision to make her daughter go to school. Jailah’s cousin also died in the massacre. 

One of the students’ teachers, Eva Mireles, 44, is being remembered as a loving wife and mother. In a post on the school’s website at the start of the school year, Mireles introduced herself to her new students.

“Welcome to the 4th grade! We have a wonderful year ahead of us!” she wrote. 

Irma Garcia, whose age has not yet been disclosed, taught at Robb Elementary for more than 20 years. She leaves behind a husband and four children, one of whom is a Marine grappling with the fact that, while he was the one trained for combat, it was his mother who fell victim to gun violence.

The stepparent of fourth-grader Amerie Jo Garza arrived soon after the shooting. Angel Garza, a medical assistant, found himself assisting injured students pouring out of the school as he looked for his stepdaughter. He saw a girl covered in blood and 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.” Garza’s heart fell when she said her friend’s name: Amerie Jo Garza, his stepdaughter.

 Texas Gov. Greg Abbott held a press conference yesterday to discuss developments in the investigation and express his condolences to the families who lost loved ones in the tragedy. 

“Uvalde has been shaken to its core. Families are broken apart. Hearts are forever shattered. All Texans must come together & support the families who have been affected by this horrific tragedy,” he tweeted.

The assailant has been identified as Salvador Ramos, 18, a Uvalde resident who lived with his grandparents. Minutes before the school attack, Ramos shot his grandmother in the face. She survived her wounds. Ramos wrote about his plans to kill his grandmother and shoot up an elementary school on social media around 15 minutes before both tragedies took place. 

Law enforcement officials said Ramos acted alone. His violent rampage only came to an end when he was fatally shot by a Border Patrol agent who is being hailed as a hero for rushing into the school without waiting for backup. His identity has not been released, but several sources confirmed that he is a member of the CBP’s elite Border Patrol Tactical Unit, or BORTAC. His hat was grazed by one of Ramos’ bullets.

Vigils are being held today to honor the victims of the shooting. President Biden and his wife plan to visit Uvalde in the coming days to express their condolences to the grief-stricken and close-knit community.