A teacher who died a “hero” trying to protect her young pupils, and two sets of 10-year-old cousins, are among the victims identified in the Texas school shooting that saw 19 children and two teachers killed on Tuesday.
Eva Mireles, 44, and Irma Garcia, 46, have been named by their families as the two teachers killed in the attack on Robb Elementary School.
The identities of the child victims have been confirmed as eight-year-old Uziyah Garcia; Eliana “Ellie” Lugo-Garcia, aged 9; 10-year-olds Amerie Jo Garza, Makenna Lee Elrod, Xavier James Lopez, Jose Flores, Navaeh Bravo, Alithia Ramirez, Alexandria “Lexi” Rubio, Eliahana “Elijah” Cruz Torres, Tess Marie Mata, Rojelio Torres, Layla Salazar, Maite Rodriguez, cousins Jailah Nicole Silguero and Jayce Carmelo Luevanos, and cousins Jackie Jaylen Cazares and Annabelle Guadalupe Rodriguez; and 11-year-old Miranda Mathis.
All were shot dead inside one of the elementary school classrooms after the gunman barricaded himself in, a Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman, Lieutenant Chris Olivarez said.
Ms Mireles’s husband is an officer with the school district’s police force. Her cousin and grandmother said on social media they were devastated at the loss and furious over the gun violence that has gripped the country.
“My beautiful cousin! Such a devastating day for us all! My heart is shattered into a million pieces,” Arizmendi Mireles said.
Ms Mireles was a bilingual special education teacher with 17 years of experience as an educator and taught fourth-grade children in the school.
Describing herself on the school’s website, she said she was a mother of a college graduate and that she loved “running, hiking” with her “fun and loving” family.
Tuesday’s shooting is the deadliest in a US primary school in almost a decade, since the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 20 children and six adults were killed.
The shooter, named as 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was wearing body armour and had a handgun and a rifle, all of which are commercially available in the state of Texas, which expanded access to guns as recently as last year.
The incident has rocked Uvalde, a small town of around 16,000 residents situated 130km (80 miles) west of San Antonio.
Grieving the death of her niece, Ms Mireles’s aunt Lydia Martinez Delgado demanded stricter gun laws and said rifles should not be so easily available.
“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,” Ms Martinez Delgado said in a statement.
“All we can do is pray hard for our country, state, schools, and especially the families of all,” the statement said.
Ms Mireles’s husband was involved in an active shooter drill at the Uvalde high school just two months ago. The chilling pictures shared on his Facebook page show Mr Ruiz and his fellow officers posing as active shooters while students played dead on the floor.
The second adult victim of the shooting, Ms Garcia, was confirmed dead by her nephew, John.
“My tia did not make it, she sacrificed herself protecting the kids in her classroom, i beg of you to keep my family including all of her family in y’all’s prayers , Irma Garcia is her name and she died a hero,” tweeted her nephew.
“She was loved by many and will truly be missed.”
The identities of the child victims of the shooting were continuing to emerge on Wednesday, with the deaths of eight-year-old Uziyah and Xavier, 10, the first to be confirmed by their families late on the day of the shooting.
Uziyah’s grandfather Manny Renfro mourned the death of the eight-year-old, calling him “the sweetest little boy that I’ve ever known”.
“I’m not just saying that because he was my grandkid,” Mr Renfro said, adding Uziyah last visited him in San Angelo 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 recalled. “There were certain plays that I would call that he would remember and he would do it exactly like we practised.”
Lisa Garza, 54, of Arlington, Texas, said her cousin Xavier had been looking forward to a summer of swimming. The shooting took place two days before the end of the school year.
“He was just a loving 10-year-old little boy, just enjoying life, not knowing that this tragedy was going to happen today,” she said. “He was very bubbly, loved to dance with his brothers, his mom. This has just taken a toll on all of us.”
Lamenting the lax gun laws in the country, she said: “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.”
Angel Garza, the father of Amerie, confirmed her death in a Facebook post.
“Thank you everyone for the prayers and help trying to find my baby,” he wrote. “She’s been found. 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.”
The death of Jose Flores was confirmed by his uncle Christopher Salazar, reported The Washington Post. Hours before the shooting, the boy had received an award for making the honour roll.
The fourth-grader, his uncle said, loved to play baseball and was a “very happy little boy”. “He was very smart,” Mr Salazar said. “He wasn’t a kid who would look for trouble.”
Family members of Annabelle Guadalupe Rodriguez and Ellie Lugo-Garcia confirmed the deaths of their daughters, hours after they issued appeals to report them missing.
Annabelle, a third-grader, was in the same classroom as her cousin, Jackie Cazares, 10, reported Houston’s KHOU. Her parents reported her missing and had been frantically searching for her.
Polly Flores, the aunt of Jackie and Annabelle’s great-aunt, told The New York Times that Jackie had just recently celebrated her first communion and was the more social of the pair of 10-year-olds.
In a gut-wrenching Facebook post, Jackie’s father shared a picture of his daughter in what appears to be a recent picture from her communion, held only two weeks before her untimely death.
“There is a select few, that won’t be kissing or hugging our babies tonight. My baby girl has been taken away from my family and I,” wrote Jacinto Cazares. “We’re devastated in ways, I hope no one ever goes thru. Taken out of arms and lives, in this freaking cowardly way, so young, so innocent, full of life and love. It hurts us to our souls.”
Jennifer Lugo and Steven Garcia wrote a Facebook post describing their daughter Ellie as a “doll... the happiest [child] ever”.
“It’s hard to issue out a statement on anything right now my mind is going at 1000 miles per hour… but I do wanna send our thoughts and prayers to those who also didn’t make it home tonight!!!” Mr Garcia said.
“Mom and Dad love you never forget that and please try and stay by our side.”
Hours after the shooting some families were still clueless about the whereabouts of their children, posting pictures of them online and begging for information.
Navaeh Bravo, a fourth-grader, was also confirmed dead by her cousin on Facebook as the family’s search for the missing girl came to a grim end.
“Thank you everyone for the prayers, our Nevaeh has been found! She is flying with the angels above. We love you Nevaeh very much princess! Please everyone continue to keep her parents and our family in your prayer,” Emily Grace Ayala wrote.
The father of Alithia Ramirez, a student at Robb Elementary School who’d just celebrated her tenth birthday at the end of April and was looking forward to summer vacation, posted on Facebook late Tuesday night enlisting his community for help in finding his daughter.
“Trying to find my daughter Alithia. I Called all the hospitals and nothing,” he wrote in a post shared by dozens of friends and family members online.
A relative of the Ramirez family confirmed to The Independent on Wednesday that Alithia was one of the victims killed during Tuesday’s attack.
In a heart-wrenching Facebook post, the mother of Alexandria Aniyah Rubio, 10, memorialised her “beautiful” and “smart” daughter.
“Alexandria Aniyah Rubio was recognized today for All-A honor roll. She also received the good citizen award. We told her we loved her and would pick her up after school. We had no idea this was goodbye,” the mother wrote.
A close family friend of the Rubio’s confirmed to The Independent that Alexandria, called “Lexi” by friends and family members, was one of the children killed.
Ten-year-old Eliahana “Elijah” Cruz Torres was remembered by her softball community as a kind person and generous athlete, as posts began pouring out after news broke that the dedicated athlete was also one of the 19 children killed.
Local news station 1813.com confirmed that the softball player was one of the victims, while the Facebook page for Softball is For Girls shared details from an interview with the young girl’s aunt who said her niece had been looking forward to a softball game on Tuesday.
“I talked to her last night and she was kind of nervous, saying that it was her last game and she didn't want softball to end. And she was excited because there were gonna, I guess, announce the ones that made it to all stars. And she was also saying like, 'what if I make it? I'm gonna be so nervous’,” her aunt told Softball is For Girls. “And I was like, 'girl you got this. You're gonna be good at it. You got this.' So she was excited.”
Jailah Silguero, also aged 10, was the youngest of four children and “the baby” of the family, her father Jacob Silguero told The New York Times. “I can’t believe this happened to my daughter,” he said. “It’s always been a fear of mine to lose a kid.”
Jailah’s cousin, Jayce Carmelo Luevanos, 10, died in the same classroom, family members confirmed on Facebook posts, making them the second set of cousins to have been killed in the elementary school attack.
Adolfo Cruz, a 69-year-old air conditioning repairman, spend Tuesday night outside the school and hoped his 10-year-old great-granddaughter, Eliajha Cruz Torres, was among the survivors.
He 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 the school.
“I hope she is alive,” Mr Cruz said. “They are waiting for an update.”
Tess Mata’s sister mourned the death of her little sibling Tuesday night. “My precious angel you are loved so deeply. In my eyes you are not a victim but a survivor. I love you always and past forever baby sister, may your wings soar higher then you could ever dream. Till we meet again Tess Marie, love your big sissy,” Faith Mata wrote on Twitter.
Eleven-year-old Miranda Mathis’s family said that Miranda and her brother attended the elementary school. The son was reported safe while Miranda was still missing. “An update......my fiance’s friend’s daughter was confirmed killed. Miranda Mathis. Please send your prayers,” Christian Ortiz wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile, two funeral homes in Uvalde said they would not charge the families of the shooting victims in an act of solidarity. Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home and Rushing-Estes-Knowles Mortuary said they will “pull together as one now in our time of need”.
In the wake of the massacre, Joe Biden demanded Congress take action to control guns, asking: “Where in God’s name is our backbone?” The president said a ban on assault-style weapons should be renewed as a matter of “common sense”.