By Sandy Malone and Holly Matkin
Uvalde, TX – The husband of a 4th grade teacher who was murdered in the rampage at Robb Elementary School on Tuesday died of a heart attack on Thursday.
Friends in law enforcement told family members that they saw Irma Garcia using her body to shield students during the gunman’s shooting spree at the Uvalde elementary school on May 24, NBC News reported.
Her husband of 24 years, Joe Garcia, was heartbroken over his wife’s murder.
John Martinez, Irma Garcia’s cousin, said that Joe Garcia “went to go deliver flowers for Irma at the memorial for her” on Thursday morning, NBC News reported.
“When he got home, he was at home for no more than three minutes after sitting down on a chair with the family,” Martinez said. “He just fell over. They tried doing chest compressions and nothing worked.”
“The ambulance came and they couldn’t, they couldn’t bring them back,” he told NBC News.
Martinez said his younger brother called him with the sad news.
“He called me and he said like, ‘Please pray for Joe.’ That’s all he told me,” he recalled. “And I said, ‘What happened?’ And he was like, ‘I don’t know. We don’t know yet.’ And then I get a call I think, no more than 30 minutes later with him crying and saying he didn’t make it.”
BREAKING: Family members tell me Joe Garcia, the husband of Uvalde teacher Irma Garcia, just died of a heart attack. The couple had been married 24 years and has 4 children. Irma was shot and killed Tuesday trying to protect her 4th grade class. #breaking #Uvalde pic.twitter.com/X9CrD3ppXS
— Matthew Seedorff (@MattSeedorff) May 26, 2022
Irma and Joe Garcia had four children together, KRIV reported.
Family members said the couple had known each other since eighth grade and would have celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary this year, ABC News reported.
Irma Garcia had been teaching at Robb Elementary School for 23 years when she was fatally shot trying to stop an 18-year-old gunman who ultimately killed 19 children and her teaching partner, Eva Mireles.
Mireles had been her teaching partner for five years, according to ABC News.
Seventeen more people were wounded, including three law enforcement officers.
Authorities have been scrambling to nail down a timeline of the Uvalde elementary school massacre amid accusations police took too long to go into Robb Elementary School when they knew there was an active shooter inside.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said during a press conference on Wednesday that the 18-year-old gunman sent a series of Facebook messages beginning at 11 a.m. on May 24, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“The first post was to the point of he said, ‘I’m going to shoot my grandmother,’” Abbott said. “The second post was, ‘I shot my grandmother.’”
“I’m going to shoot an elementary school,” the suspect wrote at 11:15 a.m.
Investigators said that after shooting his 66-year-old grandmother, Celia Gonzales, in her face at her residence, the shooter fled in her vehicle and crashed near the school, the Los Angeles Times reported.
During a press conference on Thursday afternoon, DPS South Texas Regional Director Victor Escalon said the crash occurred at 11:28 a.m.
“He had just shot his grandmother in the face,” Director Escalon said. “She’s alive. She’s stable at this point.”
The suspect got out of the passenger side of his grandmother’s wrecked truck with a long rifle and a bag that investigators later discovered was filled with ammunition.
Witnesses reported the suspect opened fire on two people outside a nearby funeral home after the crash, Forbes reported.
Neither citizen was injured in the attack.
The gunman headed to the school and hopped a fence before he began shooting at the school building from the parking lot.
Contrary to statements made by DPS Director Steve McCraw, the shooter was not confronted by a school district police officer – or anyone else – between the time he shot his grandmother and the time he entered Robb Elementary School at 11:40 a.m., Director Escalon said.
“It was reported that a school district police officer confronted the suspect that was making entry,” Director Escalon said on Thursday. “Not accurate. He walked in unobstructed initially.”
In fact, no law enforcement officers were present at the school at all when the shooter arrived, he said.
Director Escalon said the gunman entered the west side of the school using a door that may have been unlocked and fired “multiple rounds” inside the building.
That portion of the attack was captured by security cameras, he noted.
Director Escalon said the shooter fired off over 25 rounds just after entering the building.
Independent School District Police Department (ISD) and Uvalde Police Department (UPD) officers entered the building four minutes later.
“They hear gunfire. They take rounds. They move back [to] get cover,” Director Escalon said. “They don’t make entry initially because of the gunfire they’re receiving.”
The officers immediately called for “additional resources,” such as tactical teams, specialty equipment, body armor, negotiators, and “precision riflemen,” he said.
“So, during the time that they’re making those calls to bring in help…they’re also evacuating personnel…students, teachers. There’s a lot going on,” the director explained.
The shooter barged into one of the classrooms through an open door, locking the heavy-duty door behind him, and barricaded himself in the room, Forbes reported.
The 19 children and two teachers killed in the attack were all in a fourth-grade classroom at the time of the shooting, the DPS said on Wednesday, according to the New York Post.
Officials said the classroom connected to a second classroom, MassLive reported.
Police broke windows throughout the building in order to evacuate students and staff members, CNN reported.
Negotiators attempted to communicate with the gunman at some point, but he would not respond, according to Director Escalon.
U.S. Border Patrol tactical teams arrived about an hour later.
They were able to make entry into the classroom, where they shot and killed the gunman with the assistance of an Uvalde County deputy and UPD officers.
The situation then turned into a “rescue operation,” Director Escalon said.
Parents outside the school were seen arguing with officers and pleading with them to go inside the building as the shooting occurred, but officials said additional officers were already inside the building at the time.
Details regarding how long the tactical unit was at the scene prior to them gaining access to the room have not been released, Forbes reported.