Jae C. Hong/AP
Fourth-grade teacher Irma Garcia was killed in her Texas classroom on Tuesday, massacred along with her co-teacher and 19 students. Two days later, a family member says her heartbroken husband died.
The motive for the massacre – the deadliest school shooting in the country since Newtown, Connecticut, nearly a decade ago – remains under investigation, with authorities saying the 18-year-old gunman had no no known criminal or mental health history.
The suspected shooter, Salvador Ramos, was in the classroom at Robb Primary School in Uvalde for more than an hour before he was killed in a shootout, authorities said Thursday.
The rampage rocked a country already reeling from gun violence, and the toll continued to climb in Uvalde, a largely Latino town of some 16,000 people about 120 kilometers from the Mexican border.
Joe Garcia, 50, had laid flowers at his wife’s memorial on Thursday morning, The New York Times reported. He “just about fell” after returning home and died of a heart attack, his nephew John Martinez told the newspaper.
The Archdiocese of San Antonio and Rushing-Estes-Knowles Mortuary confirmed Joe Garcia’s death to The Associated Press. AP was unable to independently reach members of the Garcia family on Thursday.
Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller will hold a Mass Thursday evening at Sacred Heart Church in Uvalde for the Garcia family and the wider community, the archdiocese said.
Married for 24 years, the couple shared four children. The oldest, Cristian, serves in the Marine Corps while his brother, Jose, attended Texas State University. Their eldest daughter Lyliana is in her second year of high school, while her younger sister is a seventh year student.
Martinez, the Garcias’ nephew, told the Detroit Free Press that the family struggled to understand that while Garcia’s son was training for combat, it was his mother who was shot.
“Things like this shouldn’t happen in schools,” he told the newspaper. “That’s wrong. That’s not OK.”
The Garcias loved to barbecue, Irma, 48, wrote in an online letter to her students at Robb Elementary. Irma enjoyed listening to music and taking countryside cruises to Concan, a community along the Frio River about 40.23 kilometers north of Uvalde.
The school year, which was due to end on Thursday, was Irma’s 23rd year of teaching, all at Robb Elementary School. She had previously been named the school’s teacher of the year and was the recipient of the Trinity Award for Excellence in Education from Trinity University in 2019.
“Mrs. Irma Garcia was my mentor when I first started teaching,” her colleague Allison McCullough wrote when Irma was named teacher of the year. “The wealth of knowledge and patience she showed me changed my life.”
For five years, Irma had co-taught with Eva Mireles, who was also killed.
“Welcome to 4th grade! We have a wonderful year ahead of us! Mireles wrote in an online letter to their incoming students last year.