The grieving families of two 10-year-old girls who were shot dead alongside 17 of their classmates and two teachers in the Uvalde school shooting will lay the children to rest today in the first of the funerals for the victims of the massacre.
Amerie Jo Garza and Maite Yuleana Rodriguez, both 10, will we buried today in Uvalde, Texas, in the first of 21 funerals for those killed, as their shattered families demand answers over the police response to the mass shooting.
Amerie, who has been described by her family as a ‘ loving, sweet girl’ and a ‘little diva who hated dresses’, was shot dead by gunman Salvador Ramos, 18, after calling 911 for help.
She was killed alongside Maite, who was known by family for her ‘friendly and sweet soul’ and for her passion for learning about animals and the ocean.
Whilst Maite dreamed of becoming a marine biologist, Amerie wanted to be an art teacher – dreams that will now never be achieved.
Nineteen cops stood outside the classroom door at Robb Elementary School for an hour with the shooter trapped inside under the instruction of the school police department chief. That fatal decision is now under investigation.
On Monday, mourners gathered at the Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home, directly across from the grade school where the children, along with two teachers, were shot to death. Visitation for Maite was at the town’s other funeral home.
Over the next two-and-a-half traumatic weeks, people in the southwestern Texas town will say goodbye to the children and their teachers, one heart-wrenching visitation, funeral and burial after another.
Amerie Jo Garza and Maite Yuleana Rodriguez will both be buried today in Uvalde, Texas
Amerie Jo Garza’s father Alfred is pictured on Monday at the Hillcrest Funeral Home for visitation for his daughter. She will be buried today
Mourners comforted one another outside the funeral home on Monday ahead of the first services today
Mourners wearing matching t-shirts with the little girl’s name and the names of all of the shooting victims were seen arriving for visitation on Monday
People arrive to pay their respects during visitation for Amerie Jo Garza at Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home on Monday
Children and adults alike cried as they paid their respects at the funeral home on Monday afternoon
Connie Rubio (below right) grandmother of Alexandria Aniyah Rubio, 10, who died in the mass shooting, mourns with her family during a candlelight vigil to honor and remember the victims of the mass shooting in Uvalde on Monday
People light a candles during a candlelight vigil to honor and remember the victims of the mass shooting in Uvalde on Monday evening
As family and friends unleash their grief, investigators will push for answers about how police responded to the shooting.
Amerie’s family is among many now demanding answers over the police response and whether or not it cost their children’s lives.
‘It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it just took too long to get in there and, you know, had they gotten there sooner, and someone would have taken immediate action, we might have more of those children here today, including my daughter,’ Alfred Garza told CNN.
Her stepfather, Angel, previously told how he wept after being told by another girl that Amerie was among the dead.
Other parents have told of their unimaginable frustration at watching the cops standing outside the school, stopping them from going in to reach their kids, while the shooting unfolded.
‘We were asking and begging (authorities) to do something. I feel like they were not concerned about the real trauma that was happening inside.
‘I feel like they were not concerned about the real trauma that was happening inside,’ Jennifer Gaitan, whose daughter was in the school, said.
Police last week admitted that they did not even try and breach the door to the classroom after Ramos barricaded himself in.
One cop said it was because they thought everyone inside was already dead while another said they feared they would be shot by the 18-year-old.
Ramos had legally purchased two AR-15 rifles the week before the massacre, the first one just hours after he turned 18.
This week alone, funerals are planned for 11 children and teacher Irma Garcia. The Sacred Heart Catholic Church – the only Catholic church in Uvalde – will host up to two funerals a day beginning today.
Amerie will be the first of the victims to be buried at the Catholic church. Her family, who have said the ‘world will never have another Amerie’, will say their final farewell to their beloved child.
People attend a candlelight vigil in Uvalde, Texas, United States on Monday, remembering the victims of a school shooting where 19 children and two adults were killed
People wait to pay their respects during visitation for Amerie Jo Garza at Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home on Monday
On Monday, some mourners at Amerie’s visitation wore lilac or lavender shades of purple – Amerie’s favorites – at the request of her father, Angel Garza. Many carried in flowers, including purple ones.
The little girl who loved to draw had just received a cellphone for her 10th birthday. One of her friends told Angel Garza that Amerie tried to use the phone to call police during the assault on her fourth-grade classroom.
Among the mourners at Amerie’s visitation were some of Maite’s relatives. Like many people, they were attending both.
Maite’s family wore green tie-dye shirts with an illustration showing Maite with angel wings. Before going into the funeral home, they stopped at the ditch to see the metal gate gunman Salvador Ramos crashed a pickup truck into before crossing a field and entering the school.
‘How did he walk for so long?’ asked Juana Magana, Maite’s aunt.
Hillcrest Memorial itself and the shooting will be forever linked. After Ramos wrecked the truck, two men at the funeral home heard the crash and ran toward the accident scene. Ramos shot at them. He missed and both men made it to safety.
Amerie’s family have paid tribute to her, writing in an obituary: ‘Amerie was a kind, caring, blunt, loving, sweet, sassy and of course funny little diva who ‘hated dresses’ but nonetheless; she truly had a heart of gold.
‘She loved to eat at Chick-Fil-A and vanilla bean frape from Starbucks. Her favorite hobbies were swimming, drawing, and most of all spending time with family.
‘Amerie’s biggest dream was to become an Art teacher due to her ambitions for creativity. A protector of her brother and as we now know her classmates. This world will never have another Amerie. She will truly be missed.’
Maite will be laid to rest this evening in a funeral service. Her family have paid tribute to her in an obituary, writing: ‘Maite was a sweet girl and those who know and loved her were blessed with her kind, ambitious, friendly and sweet soul.
‘She was an AB honor student who enjoyed learning about animals and the ocean; especially dolphins, whales, and dogs. She dreamt of attending The University of Texas A&M in Corpus Christi to become a Marine Biologist because of her caring heart towards wildlife and the animals within it.’
Visitors depart from Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home in Uvalde, Texas, on May 30, 2022, during the visitation for Amerie Jo Garza, who died in the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School
People visit Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home in Uvalde, Texas, on May 30, 2022, during the visitation for Amerie Jo Garza, who died in the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School
A woman wipes her face after paying her respects during visitation for Amerie Jo Garza at Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home on May 30, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. Visitations for Amerie Jo Garza and Maite Rodriguez, two of the 19 children killed in the May 24th Robb Elementary School mass shooting are being held today
A couple sits outside of Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home in Uvalde, Texas, on May 30, 2022, during the visitation for Amerie Jo Garza, who died in the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School
People hug as they mourn outside of Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home in Uvalde, Texas, on May 30, 2022, during the visitation for Amerie Jo Garza, who died in the mass shooting at Robb Elementary Schoo
In addition to the children killed, teachers Irma Garcia and Eva Mireles were also shot by the gunman.
Irma’s husband Jose died of a heart attack two days later.
They will be laid to rest in a joint funeral on Wednesday, where their children will serve as some of the pallbearers.
Eliahna ‘Ellie’ Garcia’s funeral will be June 6 – the day after she was supposed to turn 10. Her family had been preparing a big birthday bash at her grandmother’s house this coming weekend. She had been hoping to receive gifts related to the Disney movie ‘Encanto.’
‘She loved that movie and talked a lot about it,’ said her aunt, Siria Arizmendi.
Ellie was quiet even around family but loved doing videos and had been already practicing with her older sister a choreography for her quinceanera party – the celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday – even though it was still five years away, Arizmendi said.
Ellie’s older sister is doing OK, Arizmendi said, understanding their family and others face a long road to recovery.
‘It is just sad for all the children,’ she said.
Funeral directors, embalmers and others from across Texas arrived to help. Jimmy Lucas, president of the Texas Funeral Directors Association, brought a hearse and volunteered to work as a driver, pitch in for services, or do whatever he could, he told NBC News. Other arriving morticians were there to help with facial reconstruction services given the damage caused by the shooter’s military-style rifle.
Gov. Greg Abbott, speaking at a Memorial Day event in Longview, urged Texans to keep Uvalde in their prayers.
‘What happened in Uvalde was a horrific act of evil,’ Abbott said. ‘And as Texans, we must come together and lift up Uvalde and support them in every way that we possibly can. It is going to take time to heal the devastation that the families there have gone through and are going through, But be assured, we will not relent until Uvalde recovers.’
The U.S. Department of Justice announced Sunday a review of the law enforcement response. Police have come under heavy criticism for taking well over an hour to kill Ramos inside the adjoining classrooms where he unleashed carnage.
Officials revealed Friday that students and teachers repeatedly begged 911 operators for help as a police commander told more than a dozen officers to wait in a hallway. Officials said the commander believed the suspect was barricaded inside an adjoining classroom and that there was no longer an active attack.
The revelation raised new questions about whether lives were lost because officers did not act faster to stop the gunman, who was ultimately killed by Border Patrol tactical officers.
Authorities have said Ramos legally purchased two guns not long before the school attack: an AR-style rifle on May 17 and a second rifle on May 20. He had just turned 18, permitting him to buy the weapons under federal law.
A day after visiting Uvalde and pledging, ‘We will,’ in response to people chanting, ‘Do something,’ President Joe Biden on Monday expressed some optimism that there may be some bipartisan support to tighten restrictions on the kind of high-powered weapons used by the gunman.
‘I think things have gotten so bad that everybody’s getting more rational, at least that’s my hope,’ Biden told reporters before honoring the nation’s fallen in Memorial Day remarks at Arlington National Cemetery.
‘The Second Amendment was never absolute,’ Biden said. ‘You couldn’t buy a cannon when the Second Amendment was passed. You couldn’t go out and buy a lot of weapons.’
A bipartisan group of senators talked over the weekend to see if they could reach even a modest compromise on gun safety legislation. Encouraging state ‘red flag’ laws to keep guns away from those with mental health issues, and addressing school security and mental health resources were on the table, said Sen. Chris Murphy, who is leading the effort.
The group will meet again this week under a 10-day deadline to strike a deal.
PICTURED: The 19 children and two teachers butchered in Texas elementary school shooting
Amerie Jo Garza, 10
Amerie Jo Garza (right)
Amerie Jo Garza, a fourth grader at Robb Elementary, was one of 19 students confirmed to be killed Tuesday morning by Ramos, who cops say was carrying a handgun and an AR-15 during the attack that also killed two teachers in the classroom.
Her grandmother, Berlinda Irene Arreola, said the 10-year-old was killed as she tried to phone 911 while sitting next to her best friend, who ended up ‘covered in her blood.’
Arreola said Ramos told the students and staffers inside the room, ‘You’re going to die,’ before opening fire – shooting her granddaughter dead as she tried to phone for help.
‘So the gunman went in and he told the children, ‘You’re going to die,’ Berlinda told The Daily Beast.
‘And [Amerie] had her phone and she called 911. 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.’
Uziyah Garcia, 8
Uziyah Garcia, the youngest victim at age eight, was also killed in the attack.
The child’s family announced he was killed hours after announcing he was among the many children unaccounted for following the tragedy.
The boy’s grandfather, Manny Renfro, broke the news early Wednesday after being notified by authorities.
‘[He was] the sweetest little boy that I’ve ever known,’ Renfro said. ‘I’m not just saying that because he was my grandkid.’
Renfro recalled how Uziyah last visited him in San Angelo 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,’ the grieving grandad said.
‘There were certain plays that I would call that he would remember and he would do it exactly like we practiced.’
Makenna Elrod, 10
Makenna Lee Elrod
Makenna Elrod, 10, had also been among the missing in the chaos that followed the massacre, with her father, Brandon Elrod telling reporters at the time he feared ‘she may not be alive.’
Her death was eventually confirmed by a family friend on Wednesday. ‘It’s pretty sad what this world’s coming to,’ the girl’s father told local outlet KTRK after the shooting.
A mother of one of Makenna’s friends lamented the loss in a post to Facebook.
‘Sweet Makenna Rest in Paradise!! My heart is shattered as my daughter Chloe loved her so much!!’ the mom wrote. A relative Wednesday confirmed that the girl had been among the victims.
Xavier Lopez, 10
Xavier Lopez, 10, was the first student victim to be identified as one of Ramos’ victims.
The child’s mother, Felicha Martinez, told the Washington Post Tuesday that just hours before the massacre, the mom had been at the school to see her son participate an honor roll ceremony.
She took a picture showing her son showing off his certificate.
In the last exchange she had with the child, the mom heartbreakingly told the boy that she was proud of him and that she loved him, giving him a hug goodbye – not knowing it would be the last time she would see him alive.
‘He was funny, never serious and his smile… that smile I will never forget,’ she recalled after learning of his death from police. ‘It would always cheer anyone up.’
The boy’s cousin, Lisa Garza, 54, of Arlington, said Xavier enjoyed swimming and had been looking forward to the summer.
‘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.’
Amelia Sandoval, Lopez’s grandmother, said: ‘It’s just so hard… you send your kids to school thinking they are going to make it back home but they’re not.’
Eliahana Torres, 10
Eliahana Cruz Torres
Eliahana Cruz Torres, 10, had also been missing for hours until she was confirmed to be among the dead.
Adolfo Cruz, her great-grandfather, said she didn’t want to attend school the day of the shooting – but was told by her family that she had to attend.
He said he remained outside the school gates throughout the night until he leanrned of her fate from local authorities.
‘I hope she is alive,’ he said at the time.
Torres was an avid baseball player and played the sport in a local little league.
Ellie Lugo, 10
Ellie Lugo was named as a victim of Tuesday’s attack by her parents, with Steven Garcia and Jennifer Lugo confirming her death several hours after she was listed among the missing.
‘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!!! Our Ellie was a doll and was the happiest ever,’ Steven Lugo said Wednesday.
‘Mom and Dad love you never forget that and please try and stay by our side.’
Nevaeh Bravo, 10
Nevaeh Bravo was confirmed to be among the dead late Tuesday, after her cousin posted on social media following the shooting to ask for helping the girl.
Around 9 pm, she broke the news on Twitter.
‘Unfortunately my beautiful Nevaeh was one of the many victims from todays tragedy,’ she wrote.
Sje said the schoolchild was ‘flying high’ and asked for the family to be kept in people’s prayers
‘Our Nevaeh has been found. She is flying with the angels above. We love you Navaeh very much princess.’
‘Thank you for the support and help,’ she wrote. ‘Rest in peace my sweet girl, you didn’t deserve this.’
Bravo’s age could not immediately be confirmed.
Tess Marie Mata
Tess Marie Mata
Tess Marie Mata was also among those to perish in the attack, her sister, Faith Mata, revealed in a post to Facebook Wednesday.
‘I honestly have no words just sadness, confusion, and anger,’ she wrote.
‘I’m sad because we will never get to tag team on mom and dad again and tell each other how much we mean to each other, I’m confused because how can something like this happen to my sweet, caring, and beautiful sister, and I’m angry because a coward took you from us.’
Photos shared with the post showed Tess smiling in a baby photo, snuggling with a cat, doing gymnastics, flashing a peace sign, and posing in front of a large heart mural.
‘Sissy I miss you so much, I just want to hold you and tell you how pretty you are, I want to take you outside and practice softball, I want to go on one last family vacation, I want to hear your contagious laugh, and I want you to hear me tell you how much I love you,’ she wrote.
Her age could not immediately be confirmed.
Rojelio Torres, 10
Rojelio Torres, 10, was initially reported missing by his father, but on Wednesday was confirmed dead by his family.
A person who said she was the boy’s cousin wrote on Twitter: ‘It breaks my heart to say my rojelio is now with the angels I’ll forever miss you and love you my angel.’
The child’s father , Federico Torres, told Houston reporters that he was at work when he learned about the shooting and immediately raced to the school.
‘They sent us to the hospital, to the civic center, to the hospital and here again, nothing, not even in San Antonio,’ he said. ‘They don’t tell us anything, only a photo, wait, hope that everything is well.’
Nearly half a day later, cops broke the news to the boy’s family.
‘Our entire family waited almost 12 hours since the shooting to find out Rojelio Torres, my 10-year-old nephew, was killed in this tragedy,’ Torres’ aunt, Precious Perez, told KSAT. ‘We are devastated and heartbroken. Rojer was a very intelligent, hard-working and helpful person. He will be missed and never forgotten.’
Jayce Carmelo Luevanos, 10
Jayce Luevanos, 10, died in the shooting along with his ten-year-old cousin, Jailah, the child’s mother said Wednesday.
In a Facebook post, uncle Unberto Gonzalez shared photos of both kids while offering a touching tribute.
‘My babies going to miss them like crazy!!!,’ Gonzalez wrote. ‘We luv y’all so much!!! I’m just lost right now!!! Fly high my beautiful Angels!!’
Jailah Nicole Silguero, 10
Jailah Nicole Silguero
Ten-year-old Jailah Nicole Silguero was also killed in the shooting, her mother, Veronica Luevanos, tearfully revealed to Univision Wednesday.
She also lost her 10-year-old nephew Jayce to the tragedy.
She said Jailah loved to dance and film videos on TikTok.
The child reportedly also asked her mom the morning of the shooting if she could stay home from school – a request the now mourning mom rebuffed.
‘I took her to school, but she didn’t want to go. She told her father, ‘Can I stay home?” Luevanos said, noting that it was not a common occurrence for her daughter to make such a request. ‘I think she knew something would happen.’
Luevanos’ mom confirmed the loss on Facebook Wednesday.
‘Fly high my angels. We’re going to miss yall so much,’ wrote Veronica Luevanos – whose dad had died just a week earlier.
‘I’m so heart broken,’ she wrote with a photo of her daughter and nephew.
‘My baby I love u so much … fly high baby girl.’
Alithia Ramirez, 10
Fourth grader Alithia Ramirez was confirmed dead early Wednesday by her father, Ryan Ramirez, who shared a post to Facebook showing the 10-year-old with angel’s wings. He had used the same photo the previous day as he pleaded for help finding her after the massacre
He had heartbreakingly used the same photo the previous day as he desperately pleaded for help finding her after the massacre.
‘Trying to find my daughter Alithia. I called all the hospitals and nothing,’ he wrote at the time.
He also reporters during his frantic search, ‘I’m trying to find out where my baby’s at.’
Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez, 10
Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez
Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez, 10, was another killed by Ramos Tuesday – along with her cousin, who has yet to be identified.
Annabell’s father spent the afternoon after the shooting in frantic search for his daughter.
Speaking to KHOU11 Tuesday, he lamented at how he was at a loss as to what do, having little success with the search.
‘They’re not letting us in at the hospital right now so we don’t know where to go.’
She has since been declared to be among the dead.
Miranda Mathis, 11
Miranda Mathis, 11, was also confirmed as another casualty from the mass shooting early Wednesday, in a Facebook post by an older cousin who earlier that day had posted a desperate plea for help in locating the child.
‘My sweet baby cousin we loved u dearly,’ Deanna Miller wrote alongside a photo of the child with angel wings.
‘I’m so sorry this happen to u baby please keep my family in your prayers,’ she grieved.
Miller’s kids had also been at the school at the time of the shooting, but survived the attack.
One of her sons told her that they were ushered out of a window by staffers during the attack and subsequently ran to a nearby funeral home after ‘he heard the shooter say he was gonna kill all the kids.’
Alexandria ‘Lexi’ Aniyah Rubio, 10
Alexandria Aniyah Rubio
Alexandria Aniyah Rubio – who was better known to friends as ‘Lexi’ – was confirmed dead just before midnight on Tuesday.
The ten-year-old was shot dead just hours after posing for a photo with her parents at the school’s honor roll ceremony.
Kimberly Mata-Rubio, the girl’s mother, wrote of the loss: ‘My beautiful, smart, 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.’
Maite Yuleana was another student to die in the attack that had attended the honor roll ceremony just hours before.
A cousin of the girl’s mother, Ana Rodriguez, announced the loss Wednesday.
‘It is with a heavy heart I come on here on behalf of my cousin Ana who lost her sweet baby girl in yesterday’s senseless shooting.
‘We are deeply saddened by the lose [sic] of this sweet smart little girl…. God bless and may she R.I.P Maite Rodriguez we love you.’
Another relative shared a photo of Maite with her honor roll certificate.
Her age could not immediately be confirmed.
Jose Flores Jr, 10
Jose Flores, 10, was also killed in the shooting after attending the honor roll ceremony, where he was pictured triumphantly clutching a certificate celebrating the accomplishment.
Uncle Christopher Salazar confirmed to the Washington Post Wednesday that his 10-year-old nephew was among the dead, after sharing a tribute to the child on Facebook.
‘I love you and I miss you,’ Salazar wrote in the post.
The boy’s father described Jose to CNN as an amazing boy and big brother to his two younger siblings.
‘He was always fill of energy,’ Jose Flores Sr. said. ‘Ready to play till the night.’
He said the boy loved playing baseball and video games.
Jackie Cazares, 10
Jackie Cazares, 10, was another to be killed during the vicious attack at the elementary school.
Her father Jacinto confirmed she lost her life inside her fourth-grade classroom.
‘My baby girl has been taken away from my family and I,’ the grieving father said in an online post.
‘We’re devastated in ways I hope no one ever goes through. … It hurts us to our souls.’
Cazares said his daughter, who was with her cousin, Annabell Rodriguez, when she died, was ‘full of life and love’.
Layla Salazar, 10
The 10-year-old student was the last of the slaying victims to be identified.
Vincent Salazar told the Philadelphia Inquirer his young daughter was among those killed.
He said she was ‘a lot of fun’ and recalled how they sang along to ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ by Guns ‘n’ Roses whenever he drove her to school.
Irma Garcia, 46 – fourth grade teacher
Irma Garcia, who co-taught with Mireles for the last five year, had been at Robb Elementary for 23 years.
Married to Joe for 24 years, she was a mother of four – Cristian, completing Marine boot camp; Jose, attending Texas State university University; Lyliana, a sophomore in high school; and Alysandra, a 7th grader.
‘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 John.
‘She was loved by many and will truly be missed.’
She was nominated as teacher of the year for the 2018-19 awards, organized by Trinity University.
Eva Mireles, 44 – fourth grade teacher
Eva Mireles, a fourth grade teacher, was identified by her family as being one of the staff members shot dead. She had worked in education for 17 years.
Her husband Ruben Ruiz, a veteran detective and SWAT team member currently serving as a police officer with the school district, held regular active shooter drills for the schools – most recently at the end of March.