Sunday Feb 05, 2023

Grieving husband of slain teacher dies ‘of grief’


The grieving husband of one of the teachers gunned down in this week’s horrific Texas school shooting has reportedly died of a heart attack, just two days later.

Irma Garcia was one of two teachers and 19 young children killed by a teenage gunman at Robb Elementary School in the Texas town of Ulvalde on Tuesday.

The 49-year-old had taught at the primary school for 23 years.

On Thursday (US time), the death was also reported of her husband, Joe, from a heart attack.

One of Mrs Garcia’s nephews, John Martinez, wrote on Twitter that Mr Garcia “passed away due to grief” following his wife’s murder.

The Garcias were high school sweethearts – and parents to four children, two boys and two girls aged 12-23.

“I truly am at a loss for words for how we are feeling,” Mr Martinez tweeted.

“PLEASE PRAY FOR OUR FAMILY. God have mercy on us, this isn’t easy.”

irma garcia uvalde
Joe and Irma Garcia, a picture posted to their family’s Go Fund Me Page.

He told The New York Times that Mr Garcia visited his wife’s memorial early on Thursday to drop off flowers. When he returned home, he “pretty much just fell over”, he said.

A GoFundMe page set up for Ms Garcia’s family and funeral expenses described the long-time teacher as “sweet, kind, loving”. The page had raised more than $US530,000 ($754,000) by Friday morning (Australian time).

“She sacrificed herself protecting the kids in her classroom,” the donation page says.

“She was a hero. She was loved by many and will truly be missed.”

In the aftermath of the deadly shooting in Uvalde, Mr Martinez told the NY Times that Mrs Garcia was found by police “embracing children in her arms pretty much until her last breath”.

Mrs Garcia and the other teacher killed in the shooting, Eva Mireles, had taught together for five years.

News of Mr Garcia’s sad death came as it emerged that desperate parents shouted at police to enter the Texas primary school where the killings were unfolding. Some also tried to approach the building themselves, before being restrained by officers, according to videos recorded during the attack.

The videos emerging on Thursday (local time), along with preliminary accounts of the shooting timeline from authorities, suggest up to an hour passed between the time the attack began and the moment specially trained officers breached the fourth-grade classroom where 18-year-old Salvador Ramos had slain the teachers and children – and shot him dead.

In one video posted on Facebook by a man named Angel Ledezma, parents can be seen breaking through yellow police tape and yelling at officers to go into the building.

“It’s already been an hour, and they still can’t get all the kids out,” Mr Ledezma said during the video.

Another video posted on YouTube showed officers restraining at least one adult.

One woman can be heard saying, “Why let the children die? There’s shooting in there.”

“We got guys going in to get kids,” one officer is heard telling the crowd.

“They’re working.”

A spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, Chris Olivarez, said investigators were still trying to confirm a precise timeline, including how long Ramos remained barricaded inside the classroom.

The shooting has reignited a debate across the US over the country’s gun laws.

President Joe Biden and his fellow Democrats have vowed to push for new restrictions, despite resistance from Republicans.

There were few warning signs: Ramos, a high school dropout, had no criminal record or history of mental illness.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said on Wednesday that Ramos had written an online message to someone minutes before the attack saying he was about to “shoot up an elementary school”.

Outside the school, Ramos, armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, evaded a school police officer, dropping a bag full of ammunition as he did so.

Officials have offered conflicting accounts as to whether Ramos and the officer exchanged gunfire before Ramos was able to enter the school.

“We’re trying to establish exactly what was his role and how he encountered the shooter,” Mr Olivarez told CNN.

Ramos wounded two responding officers inside a hallway before barricading himself inside a fourth-grade classroom, Mr Olivarez said.

The attack drew a massive law enforcement response, including hundreds of officers, who encircled the building and broke windows in an effort to let children and staff leave.

Eventually, members of a US Border Patrol tactical unit breached the classroom and apparently killed Ramos, with one agent wounded in the crossfire, officials said.

The Uvalde Police Department announced the incident was over shortly after 1pm. Mr Olivarez said the attack lasted between 40 and 60 minutes.

The FBI is trying to obtain surveillance video from the school’s cameras.

At least 17 people were also injured, including multiple children.

Victims’ loved ones took to social media to express anguish over the loss of children who never came home from school.

“We told her we loved her and would pick her up after school,” Kimberly Mata-Rubio posted on Facebook in a remembrance of her daughter, Alexandria Aniyah Rubio, a fourth-grade honour student.

“We had no idea this was goodbye.”

In Washington, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate appeared far from any compromise on new gun restrictions.

Mr Biden, who has urged Congress to act, will visit Uvalde in coming days.

The National Rifle Association’s annual meeting starts on Friday in Houston. Republicans including Mr Abbott, Texan Senator Ted Cruz and former president Donald Trump are scheduled to address the gun rights group.

The NRA expressed sympathy for the victims but said the event would go on as planned.

-with AAP

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