Heroic girl, 10, 'shot dead calling 911' as Texas gunman kills 21 in school massacre

25 May 2022, 06:56 | Updated: 25 May 2022, 14:50

By Daisy Stephens

A heroic 10-year-old girl was "shot dead while calling 911" by a gunman who killed 21 people at a school in Texas, her grandmother said.

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Nineteen children and two adults were killed at an elementary school shooting in Texas on Tuesday.

All the victims were in the same fourth-grade (Year 5) class.

The gunman, Salvador Ramos, had barricaded himself in a classroom and shot "anyone that was in his way", Lt Christopher Olivarez of the Texas Department of Public Safety said.

Whilst the names and ages of victims have not been officially released, one of the students killed has been named by local media as ten-year-old Amerie Jo Garza.

Amerie's grandmother, Berlinda Irene Arreola, told The Daily Beast she was shot dead by the gunman while calling 911.

“My Grand Daughter was shot and killed for trying to call 911, she died a Hero trying to get help for her and her fellow classmates,” Arreola wrote in a text message to The Daily Beast.

She said Amerie was "super-outgoing" and a "teacher's pet" who liked doing well in school.

Her father Angel Garza posted on Facebook asking for help finding her.

He later posted: "Thank you everyone for the prayers and help trying to find my baby. 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."

Among the 10 children killed was 10-year-old Xavier Lopez.

"Xavier Lopez, 10," wrote journalist Dillon Collier on Twitter.

"He was a 4th grader at Robb Elementary. His family confirms he died in today’s school shooting."

Another child, eight-year-old Uziyah Garcia, was also killed, according to his grandfather Manny Renfro.

He said he was "the sweetest little boy that I've ever known".

Top L-R: Makenna Lee Elrod, Xavier Lopez, Amerie Jo Garza, all 10. Bottom L-R: Uziyah Garcia, 8, Eva Mireles, 44, Irma Garcia
Top L-R: Makenna Lee Elrod, Xavier Lopez, Amerie Jo Garza, all 10. Bottom L-R: Uziyah Garcia, 8, Eva Mireles, 44, Irma Garcia. Picture: Twitter/handout/AP/Facebook/Robb Elementary

Another ten-year-old, Makenna Lee Elrod, was also killed.

The two teachers who died co-taught fourth grade together - the equivalent of year five in the UK.

Eva Mireles, 44, had a daughter and was married to a policeman.

She was described as "very loved" and "the fun of the party" by her aunt Lydia Martinez Delgado.

Irma Garcia, 46, was a mum-of-four who reportedly "sacrificed herself" to protect her students, according to her nephew.

Gunman Salvador Ramos, 18, was shot at the scene
Gunman Salvador Ramos, 18, was shot at the scene. Picture: Instagram

The gunman, named as 18-year-old male Salvador Ramos by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, "horrifically and incomprehensibly" killed 21 people at Robb Elementary School in the city of Uvalde on Tuesday afternoon.

On Wednesday his former classmate said Ramos was bullied at school because of his clothes and because his family were poor.

He dropped out of school as a result, the classmate claimed.

Read more: 'Bullied' Texas school gunman Salvador Ramos 'bought guns for his 18th birthday'

The Governor said Ramos, who is believed to have been shot by police, abandoned his vehicle and went into the school armed with a pistol and possibly a rifle.

"My heart is broken today," said Hal Harrell, the school district superintendent, announcing that all school activities were cancelled until further notice.

"We're a small community and we're going to need you prayers to get through this."

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The gunman, who was wearing body armour and had hinted on social media of an upcoming attack, killed his grandmother before heading to the school with two military-style rifles he had purchased on his birthday, Mr Gutierrez said.

"That was the first thing he did on his 18th birthday," he said.

He crashed his car outside the school and went inside armed, Erick Estrada of the Texas Department of Public Safety told CNN.

Officials did not immediately reveal a motive, but the governor identified Ramos as a resident of the heavily Latino community about 85 miles (135 kilometres) west of San Antonio.

A Border Patrol agent who was nearby when the shooting began rushed into the school without waiting for backup and shot and killed the gunman, who was behind a barricade, according to a law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk about it.

The agent was wounded but able to walk out of the school, the law enforcement source said.

The death toll is expected to rise
The death toll is expected to rise. Picture: Getty

More than a dozen children were taken to Uvalde Memorial Hospital and a a 66-year-old woman and 10-year-old girl are in critical condition at San Antonio's University Hospital.

Two police officers were also hit while exchanging gunfire with the suspect and sustained "non-life-threatening injuries".

During a news conference this afternoon, local police chief Pete Arredondo described the shooting as a "mass casualty event" at a school with the pupils aged between 7 and 10 years.

Federal law enforcement officials said the death toll was expected to rise.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to release investigative details.

A girl cries, comforted by two adults, outside the Willie de Leon Civic Center where grief counseling will be offered
A girl cries, comforted by two adults, outside the Willie de Leon Civic Center where grief counseling will be offered. Picture: Getty

Senator Chris Murphy demanded answers, saying: "What are we doing?…This only happens in this country and nowhere else.

"Nowhere else do little kids go to school thinking that they might be shot that day.

"Why do you spend all this time running for the United States Senate...if your answer, is as the slaughter increases, as our kids run for their lives—we do nothing?"

In a statement, President Joe Biden ordered US flags be flown at half-staff at the White House and other public buildings "as a mark of respect for the victims" until sunset on May 28.

"When in God's name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?" he said at the White House on Tuesday evening.

With first lady Jill Biden standing by his side in the Roosevelt Room, Mr Biden added: "I am sick and tired.

"We have to act."

US President Joe Biden addressed the nation on Tuesday
US President Joe Biden addressed the nation on Tuesday. Picture: Alamy

Uvalde elementary school, which has 600 students enrolled, is located 60 miles east of the Mexican border and 80 miles west of San Antonio.

Tributes from across America have flooded in including from government officials, with Governor Abbott writing: "Texans across the state are grieving for the victims of this senseless crime and for the community of Uvalde.

"Cecilia and I mourn this horrific loss and we urge all Texans to come together to show our unwavering support to all who are suffering. We thank the courageous first responders who worked to finally secure Robb Elementary School.

"I have instructed the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Rangers to work with local law enforcement to fully investigate this crime.

"The Texas Division of Emergency Management is changed with providing local officials all resources necessary to respond to this tragedy as the State of Texas works to ensure the community has what it needs to heal."

Civil rights attorney Colin Allred said: "In Uvalde, another senseless act of gun violence has taken innocent lives... my heart breaks for our fellow Texans and I'm praying for those going through unimaginable pain. It doesn't have to be this way."

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Members of the community gather at Uvalde Town Square for a prayer vigil in the wake of the shooting
Members of the community gather at Uvalde Town Square for a prayer vigil in the wake of the shooting. Picture: Getty

The massacre of young children was another gruesome moment for a country scarred by an almost ceaseless string of mass killings at churches, schools and stores.

It is the deadliest shooting at a US grade school since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, almost a decade ago.

The prospects for any reform in the nation's gun regulations seem at least as dim now as they did then.

Efforts by politicians to change US gun policies in any significant way have consistently faced roadblocks from Republicans and the influence of outside groups such as the NRA.

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It also comes less than two weeks after a gunman opened fire at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, which killed 10 black shoppers and workers.

In 2018, a gunman fatally shot 10 people at Santa Fe High School in the Houston area. A year before that, a gunman at a Texas church killed more than two dozen people during a Sunday service in the small town of Sutherland Springs. In 2019, another gunman at a Walmart in El Paso killed 23 people in a racist attack.

The shooting came days before the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual convention was set to begin in Houston.