Two sets of cousins among the victims of Uvalde school massacre

Warning:graphic descriptions.

Distraught families are in mourning after a gun massacre at a primary school in Uvalde,Texas killed two sets of cousins and more than a dozen other children aged between eight and 11.

Nineteen students and two of their teachers at Robb Elementary School have been confirmed dead,along with the 18-year-old shooter Salvador Ramos,whose own grandmother was also in a critical condition after he fired at her before heading to the school.

Identity of 19 children and two teachers killed by gunman released

Screams echoed throughout the night from the Willie de Leon civic centre as families were told the awful news of the mounting death toll.

An eight-year-old,fifteen 10-year-olds,two 11-year-olds and two teachers have been identified as victims of the massacre,with more names to come as the grieving post their tributes.

Three children and three adults remain hospitalised,five of whom are in a serious condition.

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,eight-year-oldUziyah 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.”

Victims of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde,Texas:Uziyah Garcia,Alexandria Rubio,Xavier Lopez,Nevaeh Bravo.

Victims of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde,Texas:Uziyah Garcia,Alexandria Rubio,Xavier Lopez,Nevaeh Bravo.Supplied

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

Alexandria Rubio’s parents had visited Robb Elementary mere hours before she was killed in the shooting to attend an awards ceremony celebrating her making the honour roll and receiving 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 10-year-old’s mother Kimberly Rubio said.

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.

According to Mejia,Lopez’s mother also attended the awards ceremony at the school.

Lisa Garza,54,of Texas,mourned the death of Xavier,her cousin,who had been eagerly awaiting a summer of swimming.

“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.

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.

Lopez’s classmate Nevaeh Bravo was also killed. Her cousin Emily Ayala took to social media to ask reporters to “let my family grieve in peace” after confirming Bravo’s death. “She is flying with the angels above,” Alayla said.

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 a US marshall confirmed her death hours after she was recognised at an awards ceremony for making the honour roll.

Victims of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde,Texas:Amerie Jo Garza,Jose Flores jnr,Eliahna García,Alithia Ramirez.

Victims of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde,Texas:Amerie Jo Garza,Jose Flores jnr,Eliahna García,Alithia Ramirez.Supplied

“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.

Garza’s grandmother Berlinda Irene Arreola toldThe Daily Beast she was killed after she attempted to dial 911 in an effort to help the class.

Arreola said authorities and survivors told her that the gunman told the students they were going to die.

“Amerie Jo grabbed her phone to call police. And instead of grabbing it and breaking it or taking it from her,he shot her. She was sitting right next to her best friend. Her best friend was covered in her blood,” Arreola said.

Lydia Salazar Torrez said she was at work in San Antonio when she realised several of her nieces and nephews were at the school.

She toldRolling Stoneone child managed to run across the street to a neighbour’s house,while another was the last boy to be helped out of the window by a teacher.

Torrez said they were all eventually accounted for - except 10-year-oldJose Flores jnr,another honour roll student and the son of her niece Alyssa Rodriguez.

“Jose was the only one who didn’t make it out,” Torrez said.

“It’s horrible. We can’t even believe this has happened. We can’t. It shouldn’t have happened. Jose was nothing but heaven. He’s his mom’s firstborn. He was in a good mood all the time,always saying hello to everybody. It’s a tragedy. It’s something that the whole world is never going to forget.”

The aunt of 10-year-oldEllie Garcia,Siria Arizmemdi said her niece was a “very happy and very outgoing” girl.

In a recent video message to her father,Garcia said “if you send me back a video I’ll be happy,like I always am. I love you daddy.”

Veronica Luevanos,whose 11-year-old daughter,Jailah Nicole Silguero,was among the victims,told Daily Beast in a tearful interview that her daughter did not want to go to school on Tuesday and that the girl seemed to sense something was going to happen.

Silguero’s 10-year-old cousinJayce Carmelo Luevanos also died in the shooting.

Just one week earlier,Veronica’s father died. Her mother,Linda Gonzales,said she should think of it as “your daddy taking your baby with him.”

Jacklyn Cazares and Annabelle Rodriguez,another set of 10-year-old cousins who were in the same class,were also killed,according toThe New York Times.

Deceased cousins Jayce Carmelo Luevanos and Jaliah Silguero (left) and Annabelle Rodriguez and Jacklyn Cazares (right).

Deceased cousins Jayce Carmelo Luevanos and Jaliah Silguero (left) and Annabelle Rodriguez and Jacklyn Cazares (right).The Age

Jacklyn,who had her First Communion two weeks ago,was the social one,said Polly Flores,the girl’s aunt. “She was outgoing;she always had to be the centre of attention,” Flores said.

“She was my little diva.” In a tribute to Jacklyn,her sister Jazmin wrote,“I hope you didn’t feel any pain. I hope you know how loved you are. I’m sorry I forgot to say good morning today.”

Annabelle,an honour roll student,was quieter. But she and her cousin were close,so close that Annabelle’s twin sister,who was homeschooled,“was always jealous,” Flores said.

Alithia Ramirez,10,had wanted to be an artist like her father Ryan Ramirez when she grew up,he told KSAT. He was one of many parents who spent hours frantically looking for his daughter at all the local hospitals and neighbouring properties before being advised of her death.

Jacklyn’s father Jacinto Calvares told ABC Newshe blames the school and police for the death of his daughter,not the weapons.

“I want to say we hold the school responsible for not having locked doors and no protocol,no training. Also,the police for not having a better and faster tactical response time. There was at least 40 lawmen armed to the teeth,but didn’t do a darn thing till it was far too late,” Jacinto Cazares said.

He went on to say while he doesn’t blame the weapons used in this tragedy,he’s angry at how easy it is to purchase them and the lack of age-restrictions.

The family ofRogelio Torres says the 10-year-old was also one of the victims.

“Thank you for the prayers and for trying to help find my cousin,it breaks my heart to say my Rojelio is now with the angels. I’ll forever miss you and love you my angel,” hiscousin wrote on Twitter.

Victims of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde,Texas:Rogelio Torres,Makenna Lee Elrod,Tess Mata,Eliahana Cruz Torres.

Victims of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde,Texas:Rogelio Torres,Makenna Lee Elrod,Tess Mata,Eliahana Cruz Torres.Supplied

Kadence Elrod said on Twitter that her “innocent baby” sister,Makenna Lee Elrod,10,was one of the students killed.

“All I ask is that you hug your loved ones tonight and tell them you love them,you never know when you won’t have the chance to anymore,” she said in her post.

The family ofTess Mata,10,is also in mourning,with her sister Tess writing on Twitter:“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 siss.”

Adolfo Cruz,a 69-year-old air conditioning repairman,was still outside Robb Elementary School in the town of Uvalde as the sun set on Tuesday,waiting for word on his 10-year-old great-granddaughter,Eliahana Cruz Torres.

Cruz drove to the scene after receiving a tearful and terrifying call from his daughter shortly after the first reports of the shooting. 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. Cruz Torres’s death was unfortunately confirmed on Wednesday. She’d been eagerly awaiting to hear whether she’d made the local all-star’s softball team.

Maite Rodriguez,10,had also been recognised on the honour roll before being killed on Tuesday. One of her cousins confirmed her death on Facebook,calling her a “beautiful angel”.

Miranda Mathis’ family were searching for hours trying to confirm the location of the 11-year-old and her younger brother when the news of the school shooting broke. While her brother was found safe,a family member confirmed on social media that Miranda had been killed.

Fourth grade teacherEva Mireles has been identified as one of the adults who was killed alongside co-teacherIrma Garcia.

Victims of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde,Texas:Maite Rodriguez,Miranda Mathis,Eva Mireles,Irma Garcia.

Victims of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde,Texas:Maite Rodriguez,Miranda Mathis,Eva Mireles,Irma Garcia.Supplied

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

In a short description pinned 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”.

Her daughter,Adalynn,wrote on Twitter:“I have no words to describe how I feel right now,tomorrow,and for the rest of my life. I never thought that I would be here writing this type of post for you.”

Mireles’ 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 130 km west of San Antonio,has about 16,000 residents,nearly 80 per cent of them Hispanic or Latino,according to US 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.”

According to her profile on the school’s website,Garcia had been a teacher for 23 years. She was married and had four children.

Her eldest son,Christian Garcia,told NBC that a friend in law enforcement who was at the scene had seen his mother shielding the students.

With Reuters,AP

Amelia McGuire is a journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Marta Pascual Juanola is a breaking news reporter at The Age.

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