On Tuesday morning, Texas fourth-grader Amerie Jo Garza, 10, beamed for a picture as she held up a colorful school certificate naming her to the honor roll at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas.
Taken at around 10 a.m., it was the last picture of her alive, her grandmother, Berlinda Irene Arreola, told The Daily Beast in an emotional interview in which she said the girl—“super-outgoing” and a “teacher’s pet” who liked doing well in school—was fatally wounded dialing 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.
Amerie was one of 19 children killed when 18-year-old gunman Salvadore Ramos ran into Robb Elementary School at about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, after shooting his grandmother, crashing his car in a ditch, and being pursued by local law enforcement. He barricaded himself in a classroom and fired at “whatever was in his way,” according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Two fourth-grade teachers were also killed—Eva Mireles, whose partner is a school district police officer, and Irma Garcia, who had taught at the school for 23 years.
One of Mrs. Garcia’s students, 10-year-old Ellie Garcia, was among the dead, her parents Stephen Garcia and Jennifer Lugo confirmed. Lugo had first posted on Tuesday morning that she could hear shots a few blocks away, wondering “did they guy run to Robb ????” They then pleaded for hours for any news on Ellie’s whereabouts, before finally confirming their worst fears.
“Our Ellie was a doll and was the happiest ever,” Stephen wrote. “I was gonna DJ for her at her party like she wanted me too!!”
Xavier Javier Lopez, Nevaeh Bravo, and Makenna Lee Elrod were also among the deaths, their families confirmed. Uziyah Garcia’s family, who had described their frantic search to The Daily Beast, confirmed that the 8-year-old was among the victims, too. “The sweetest little boy that I’ve ever known,” his grandfather, Manny Renfro, told the AP.
As word of the shooting and its toll spread, Amerie Jo’s family members spent an anguished day struggling to find out anything about their missing daughter. Before 8 p.m. local time, Amerie Jo’s distraught stepfather, Angel Garza, like others in the same vigil, went to Facebook:
“I don’t ask for much or hardly even post on here but please It’s been 7 hours and I still haven’t heard anything on my love.
“Please fb help me find my daughter.”
Garza, who had raised Amerie Jo with her mom since she was a baby, returned to Facebook shortly after 11 p.m. local time with the news that Amerie Jo was one of the victims.
“Please don’t take a second for granted,” he wrote. “Hug your family. Tell them you love them. I love you Amerie jo. Watch over your baby brother for me.”
Her grandmother, Arreola, said Texas Rangers notified the family that Amerie Jo had been fatally wounded and that her body was with the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy. She said she was told by authorities and survivors of the shooting:
“So the gunman went in and he told the children ‘You’re going to die.’ And she 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.”
Arreola said she was told that Amerie Jo died immediately. She leaves behind a little brother, aged 3, whom she doted on. Arreola said of her granddaughter “She was just super-outgoing. She had a generous heart. She was always there to lend anybody a helping hand. She was very quick to be a teacher’s pet. She had just gotten her award today for A-B Honor Roll. She was very smart and she was looking forward to making a life for herself.”