As the United States woke up to the horrific aftermath of its latest mass school shooting in which a gunman killed 19 children and two adults after storming into an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, the first details of the victims emerged.
A law enforcement official said all victims were in the same fourth-grade classroom.
Eight-year-old Uziyah Garcia was identified by his family as one of the children killed in the school shooting attack.
“The sweetest little boy that I’ve ever known,” Garcia’s grandfather, Manny Renfro, told the Associated Press. “I’m not just saying that because he was my grandkid.”
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. There were certain plays that I would call that he would remember, and he would do it exactly like we practiced.”
Lisa Garza, 54, of Arlington, Texas, mourned the death of her cousin, Xavier Lopez.
“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.”
Lopez’s cousin earlier told KSAT the local ABC news affiliate, that his mother was with him at the school during an awards ceremony just hours before the shooting, not realising it would be the last time she would see him.
Amerie Jo Garza was identified by family as one of the children killed.
Her father, Angel Garza, told ABC News the girl had just turned 10 on 10 May.
“Thank you everyone for the prayers and help trying to find my baby,” Angel Garza wrote to ABC in a statement. “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.
Garza was among several parents who criticised US gun laws.
“We should have more restrictions, especially if these kids [the gunmen] are not in their right state of mind and all they want to do is just hurt people, especially innocent children going to school,” he said.
Jose’s uncle, Christopher Salazar, said: “He was a very happy little boy. He loved both his parents … and loved to laugh and have fun.”
Fourth-grade teacher Eva Mirelez, was killed in the shooting. She had worked for the Uvalde school district for 17 years, said the teacher’s aunt, Lydia Martinez Delgado.
A neighbor of Mireles told the New York Post that Mireles “was just a sweetheart”.
“It’s a tragedy that this happened to a person like this,” said the neighbor, who did not want to be identified. “She was the sweetest person and she would take her cute dogs out on walks and she would say hi.”
She was reportedly married to Ruben Ruiz, a police officer, and has a daughter. Delgado said her niece took pride in her teaching, and that she had been told that she was killed protecting her pupils.
“She was the fun of the party,” she said, adding in a statement reported by ABC. “I’m furious that these shootings continue. These children are innocent. Rifles should not be easily available to all.”
Several US media outlets named Irma Garcia as the second adult victim. According to her school profile, Garcia, who was Mireles’s co-teacher, had taught at the school for 23 years and was married with four children. NBC reported that her son had been told by a friend in law enforcement that she too had been shielding her pupils.
Torres has been identified by his family as 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,” his cousin wrote on Twitter.
Kadence Elizabeth identified her sister, Makenna, as one of the students killed.
“My sweet innocent baby sister … my heart will forever break for you my love … I love you with my whole heart kenna wenna. Have fun with your angels up in heaven baby girl,” she wrote.
Faith Mata mourned the loss of her sister Tess on Twitter, writing: “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 siss.”
Family members have identified Rodriguez as one of the victims. Her cousin, whose identity has not been verified, was in the same classroom as her and was also shot and killed.
Garcia’s parents confirmed her death on Facebook, with her father Steven Garcia saying “Our Ellie was a doll and was the happiest 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!!!” he wrote. “I was gonna DJ for her at her party like she wanted me too!!! Mom and Dad love you never forget that and please try and stay by our side Amor!!!! Send prayers to all UVALDE we really need it!!!!” her father added.
Her mother, Jennifer Lugo, also mourned the loss of her daughter, writing on Facebook, “My heart broken….I don’t know what to do. I feel so numb. I miss you baby!!!!”
Nevaeh Bravo’s cousin, Emily Grace Ayala, confirmed Bravo’s death on Facebook, writing, “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 prayers.”
Her grandfather confirmed Torres’s death to ABC, telling the outlet that “she was a beautiful young girl with a lot of energy”.