The husband of a teacher killed in this week’s mass shooting at a Texas school has died from a heart attack, a family member said.
Irma Garcia’s family was already reeling from her death in the elementary school shooting that targeted her fourth-grade classroom.
Then, two days after the attack, Joe Garcia, her grieving husband collapsed and died at home from a heart attack, a family member told the New York Times.
Garcia, 50, had dropped off flowers at his wife’s memorial on Thursday morning in Uvalde, Texas, and returned home, where he collapsed and died, his nephew John Martinez said.
Married for 24 years, the couple had four children.
Irma Garcia, 46, was one of two teachers killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, along with 19 children. Relatives briefed by authorities said Irma Garcia and her co-teacher Eva Mireles died trying to protect their students.
“EXTREMELY heart breaking and come with deep sorrow to say that my Tia Irma’s husband Joe Garcia has passed away due to grief, i truly am at a loss for words for how we are all feeling,” wrote Martinez on his Twitter account, using the Spanish word for “aunt” and requesting prayers for the family.
“God have mercy on us, this isn’t easy.”
Martinez told The Detroit Free Press that the family was struggling to grasp that, while the couple’s oldest son trained for combat in the Marine Corps, it was his mother who was shot dead.
“Stuff like this should not be happening in schools,” he told the newspaper.
The Archdiocese of San Antonio and the Rushing-Estes-Knowles Mortuary confirmed Joe Garcia’s death to The Associated Press. The AP was unable to independently reach members of the Garcia family on Thursday.
The motive for the massacre – the United States’ deadliest school shooting since the 2012 attack in Newtown, Connecticut – remained under investigation, with authorities saying the 18-year-old gunman had no known criminal or mental health history.
The suspect, Salvador Ramos, was inside the classroom for more than an hour before he was killed in a shootout with law enforcement, authorities said.
The rampage rocked a country already weary from gun violence and shattered the community of Uvalde, a largely Latino town of some 16,000 people about 120 kilometres (75 miles) from the Mexican border.
The Garcias loved to barbecue, 48-year-old Irma wrote in an online letter to her students at Robb Elementary School. She enjoyed listening to music and travelling to Concan, a community along the Frio River about 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of Uvalde.
The couple’s oldest child, Cristian, is a Marine. The couple’s other son, Jose, attends Texas State University. Their eldest daughter, Lyliana, is a high school sophomore, while her younger sister is in the seventh grade.
The school year, scheduled to end on Thursday, was Garcia’s 23rd year of teaching – all of it at Robb. She was previously named the school’s teacher of the year and was a 2019 recipient of the Trinity Prize for Excellence in Education from Trinity University.
“Mrs Irma Garcia was my mentor when I began teaching,” her colleague Allison McCullough wrote when Garcia was named teacher of the year.
“The wealth of knowledge and patience that she showed me was life changing.”