Texas school shooting: Anderson Cooper consoles heartbroken dad who learned of daughter’s death from her best friend

·4 min read

CNN’s Anderson Cooper struggled to hold back his own tears on air as a heartbroken father outside of the site of the Texas school shooting regaled how his 10-year-old daughter spent the last moments of her life trying to save her classmates.

“She was just trying to do the right thing. She was just trying to call the cops,” Angel Garza, the father of Amerie Jo, told Mr Cooper while gulping back tears and knitting a framed picture of his 10-year-old daughter between his arms, pulling it tightly into his chest.

“This is literally like her worst fear. And she was just trying to help everyone.”

Mr Garza, a trained medic aide, arrived on the scene of Tuesday’s massacre at Robb Elementary School unaware, like most at the time, that a teenage gunman had just swept through a fourth grade classroom and shot and killed 19 children - all 11 years old and younger - and two teachers.

Being trained in first aid, he set upon delivering as much assistance as he could when he saw officers bringing some of the children out of the Texas elementary school.

“One little girl was just covered in blood, head-to-toe … I thought she was injured, so I asked her what was wrong,” Mr Garza began explaining, noting that the small child was hysterical and struggled to express that she was, contrary to how she appeared, the uninjured one. The blood, she told him, had come from her best friend, who hours earlier had been seated next to her in their fourth-grade class.

“And I asked the little girl the name and she said … she told me,” Mr Garza began, before pausing as tears streamed down his face, “she told me Amerie.”

Mr Garza, his shoulders shaking uncontrollably as he wept over the still raw memory, was then comforted by the CNN host, who extended an arm to console the bereft father.

“That’s how you learned,” Mr Cooper said, before giving Mr Garza a moment to collect his thoughts.

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper consoles Angel Garza on live television as he breaks down talking about his 10-year-old daughter, Amerie Jo, and her last moments alive inside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. (Twitter/CNN)
CNN anchor Anderson Cooper consoles Angel Garza on live television as he breaks down talking about his 10-year-old daughter, Amerie Jo, and her last moments alive inside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. (Twitter/CNN)

Amerie, it was later confirmed by classmates and authorities, had spent her final moments of life trying to dial out to 911 on her cellphone after the gunman, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, barricaded the students and teachers inside the Robb classroom and opened fire on the unprotected group.

The cellphone that Amerie attempted to get help from was a recent gift from her mother and father for her tenth birthday, which Mr Garza told the CNN host she’d only celebrated two weeks earlier, on 10 May.

“She’d been wanting a phone for so long. And we finally got it for her,” he said before again breaking down. “She just tried to call the police.”

Amerie leaves behind a 3-year-old brother, who Mr Garza said worshipped his older sister to the point that every morning when he woke, he asked to see her.

Anderson Cooper speaks with Angel Garza, father of Amerie, who died during the Texas school shooting while trying to dial 911 on her cellphone. (Twitter/CNN)
Anderson Cooper speaks with Angel Garza, father of Amerie, who died during the Texas school shooting while trying to dial 911 on her cellphone. (Twitter/CNN)

“We’ve informed him that his sister is now with God and that she will no longer be with us and of course he just cried,” he said. “He’s three years old and it’s emotional for even him to process.”

At points during the interview, Mr Garza became overwhelmed with his fresh grief and cried for “my baby”. At one point he stopped to ask a gut-wrenching question while pointing to the photograph of his daughter, who’d just been given an award for making the honour roll: “How do you look at this girl and just shoot her?”

Amerie’s mother, Kimberly Garcia, separately commemorated her daughter’s tragic death in a post shared on Facebook, alongside a recent picture of the 10-year-old receiving her honour roll award.

“You did not deserve this my sweet baby girl,” she wrote. “I will never understand. I love you and I’ll never be the same, ever again.”

Anderson Cooper and Angel Garza talk about how Amerie, his 10-year-old daughter, had just recently made the honour roll at Robb Elementary School. (Twitter/CNN)
Anderson Cooper and Angel Garza talk about how Amerie, his 10-year-old daughter, had just recently made the honour roll at Robb Elementary School. (Twitter/CNN)

Her husband told the CNN host that his wife has “beaten herself up so bad about this” and that she was taking the news of their daughter’s passing rather hard.

“I just want to ask everybody to keep my wife in their prayers. Amerie had the best mother. She did everything she could for her daughter,” he said, before adding that their now dead daughter would only want her mother to “to be happy”.

Kimberly Garcia, Amerie’s mother, shared a heartfelt Facebook post following the news that her 10-year-old daughter died during Tuesday’s school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. (Facebook/Kimberly Garcia)
Kimberly Garcia, Amerie’s mother, shared a heartfelt Facebook post following the news that her 10-year-old daughter died during Tuesday’s school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. (Facebook/Kimberly Garcia)

Before closing the emotional interview, Mr Cooper, who at this point seemed to be struggling to keep back tears of his own, asked Amerie’s father if there was anything else that he’d like the world to know about his bright young daughter.

“I just want people to know she died trying to save her classmates,” Mr Garza told the CNN host. “She just wanted to save everyone.”