Police believe the El Paso shooter targeted Latinos. These are the victims’ stories
(CNN) — Javier Amir Rodriguez’s family was among the crowd of mourners who gathered in a high school football field Monday evening to release white doves to remember him and the 21 other people killed in Saturday’s massacre at Walmart.
The 15-year-old was the youngest victim in a shooting that police say was committed by a white supremacist who drove hundreds of miles from a Dallas suburb to El Paso, Texas.
“Please understand, this violence, this hatred, will not define this community,” Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said during the vigil at Horizon High School. “We will speak forever about Javier with pride and gratitude and love.”
Police say they believe the suspect had written a document filled with hatred aimed at immigrants and Latinos, warning of a “Hispanic invasion” of Texas. El Paso’s police chief said Sunday that it appeared that the shooting was a hate crime, and federal authorities have said they’re treating the shooting as a case of domestic terrorism.
Among those killed were parents, grandparents and spouses from both sides of the US-Mexico border.
The doves are positive symbols, Horizon High School Principal Elena Erives Acosta said at Monday’s vigil.
“Symbols of new beginnings, of love and healing,” she said.
The dead include at least 13 Americans, at least eight Mexicans and one German. At least one of the victims had both US and Mexican citizenship, a relative says. The last moments of their lives before the shooting began could not have been more routine.
One couple was shopping for school supplies for their daughter. Another couple had just dropped off their dog at the groomer. A man from Mexico was visiting his granddaughter as she raised money with her soccer team.
Here’s what we know about the victims so far:
These people died protecting their families
Jordan and Andre Anchondo had gone to the store after dropping off their 5-year-old daughter at cheer practice, Jordan’s aunt Elizabeth Terry told CNN.
The couple brought along their 2-month-old son as they shopped for school supplies for their daughter.
Only the little boy would survive.
As the gunfire erupted, Jordan, 24, shielded her baby, Terry said. Andre, 23 jumped in front of his wife, said another relative, Jesse Jamrowski.
“The baby still had her blood on him. You watch these things and see these things and you never think this is going to happen to your family,” Terry said.
“How do parents go school shopping and then die shielding their baby from bullets?”
In addition to their 5-year-old-daughter, the couple leaves behind another child, aged 2.
The first call of an active shooter went out at 10:39 a.m. local time, authorities said. Around 2 p.m., Anchondo’s relatives started calling each other, saying the couple was not answering their phones, Terry said.
The baby was “pulled from under her body,” said Terry, the sister of Anchondo’s father, Paul, for whom the injured infant is named. The infant suffered broken fingers but is home with family, Terry said.
Jordan Anchondo died alone at the hospital because no friends or loved ones were able to immediately find her, her aunt said. “It took us a while to confirm and identify her throughout all the chaos,” she said.
The couple had recently celebrated their first wedding anniversary.
Andre Anchondo owned a mechanic shop in El Paso, Terry said. Originally from Odessa, Texas, Jordan Anchondo loved being a mother to her children, Terry said.
“She had the most contagious smile and laugh,” Terry told CNN. “We lost the light of our family and the light of our heart.”
Dave Johnson, 63, died shielding his wife Kathy and their 9-year-old granddaughter, Kaitlyn, from the hail of bullets, Johnson’s daughter Stephanie Melendez told CNN.
The couple was grocery shopping and picking out a present for Kaitlyn, the family told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
It didn’t surprise his family that Johnson risked his life for them. He doted on his granddaughter, spending time with her after work on science experiments, Melendez and her sisters said.
Kathy Johnson told her daughters that the gunman got as close as two feet from them. Johnson was shot after he pushed down his wife and granddaughter and covered them, Melendez said.
“I was so close to losing her but because of him she is still here,” Melendez said. “I wish he was here so I can tell him how thankful I am.”
A relative tracked a victim’s car to the Walmart parking lot
Arturo Benavides, 60, was an Army veteran and a bus driver who loved telling stories of his days in the service as an Army staff sergeant.
His niece Jacklin Luna described her uncle as popular and beloved.
“He was an absolutely caring and strong-willed man,” she said. “He was the person that would give any dime and shirt off his back, a meal and a home to anyone.”
Leo Campos and Maribel Hernandez dropped their dog off at the groomer before going to Walmart, Hernandez’s brother Al Hernandez told CNN affiliate KFOX/KDBC.
The family didn’t realize anything was wrong until the groomer called them and said the dog hadn’t been picked up, Al Hernandez said.
A family member tracked the GPS of their vehicle to the Walmart parking lot, KFOX/KDBC reported. Later, the family learned from police that both Campos and Hernandez died in the shooting, according to the affiliate.
“He deserves nothing less than the world to know everything he did and the love he had left to share,” Luna said.
Will Englisbee told CNN that his brother spoke to their mother, Angie Englisbee, 86, when she was in the check-out line at Walmart at 10:31 a.m.
On Sunday, the family learned she was killed in the shooting, Will Englisbee said.
Families searched for loved ones, only to find out they died
Over the weekend, the Clint Independent School District put out a call for information on their Facebook page as relatives struggled to locate 15-year-old Rodriguez.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the loss of one of our students, Javier Amir Rodriguez, who formerly attended Horizon HS,” the district later said in a post on its official Facebook page. “Our heartfelt condolences and prayers are with his parents and family.”
Students and community members filled the school’s football field Monday to honor Javier.
He was a passionate soccer player, his coach said at the vigil. He had a strong bond with his teammates and would often practice with them during lunch time.
“I was asked today what message would he say to us, what message would he want us to send. I would say, ‘Do your best, stay focused, hone your craft in soccer.’ See, soccer was life for Javier,” his coach said.
Antonio Basco told CNN he went to different hospitals looking for his wife, Margie Reckard, but hospital staffers wouldn’t tell him anything.
It wasn’t until Sunday afternoon that a group of five FBI agents approached him and told him his 67-year-old wife had been killed, he said.
Eight Mexican nationals identified as victims
Of the 22 killed, at least eight were Mexican nationals, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard said.
Jorge Calvillo García from Torreón, Mexico, was visiting his son, Luis Calvillo, and granddaughter, Emily. The three were outside the Walmart raising money for Emily’s soccer team when gunfire erupted.
García shielded his granddaughter and her teammates from the bullets, relative Raul Ortega told CNN affiliate KFOX. He said the girl’s father, a coach for the soccer team, was also shot and is in critical condition.
Juan Velazquez, 77, died at the hospital on Monday after being shot in the parking lot.
He was at the store with his wife, Nicolasa, who was also shot and is recovering in the hospital.
The couple has six children and 15 grandkids, their granddaughter Daisy Fuentes told CNN affiliate KTSM.
They had just parked their car when they were shot, Fuentes said. Nicolasa was able to call Fuentes’ mom and tell them what had happened, she said.
He held both Mexican and US citizenships, his niece, Idaly Velasquez, said.
Sara Esther Regalado and Adolfo Cerros Hernández were among those killed in the rampage.
Regalado was from Juarez and Hernández was from Aguascalientes.
Elsa Mendoza de la Mora was a teacher and director of an elementary school, CNN affiliate KTSM reported.
“Thank you very much to all the people who have been attentive to my family and me. I know my mother will get all that love that we share,” her son Antonio posted to his Facebook page.
“How much love you gave me. How much strength you taught me. Having been your son and your student of life has been the best of my life. Thanks mom. Love you.”
Gloria Irma Márquez of Juarez was remembered as “a dedicated mother, grandmother and friend.”
The other two Mexican victims were identified as María Eugenia Legarreta Rothe from Chihuahua and Ivan Filberto Manzano from Ciudad Juarez.
Other victims identified in the shooting
The other victims identified, according to Police Chief Greg Allen, include: US citizens Maria and Raul Flores, both 77; German citizen Alexander Gerhard Hoffman, 66; US citizen Luis Alfonzo Juarez, 90; and Mexican national Teresa Sanchez, 82.
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