The grief-stricken husband of a fourth-grade teacher senselessly slaughtered in the Texas school massacre was seen in heart-wrenching video placing flowers at a memorial to his high school sweetheart – shortly before he died of a heart attack.
Joe Garcia, 50, on Thursday morning placed a vase of red roses at a cross bearing the name of his wife, Irma Garcia, 46, who was gunned down protecting her students in the rampage at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, footage posted by KHOU-TV shows.
The Garcias’ nephew, John Martinez, described his uncle’s final hours of anguish in an interview with the Detroit Free Press.
“What happened was my Uncle Joe went to go leave flowers for my Tia (Aunt) Irma, his wife, and whenever he got back, he sat down at the kitchen table with his entire family, and after three minutes, he just fell over,” he told the paper in a telephone interview.
“I’m told my mom was giving him chest compressions. It happened around 10 o’clock. I know my little brother was there,” he said.
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“They called the ambulance and I was told they couldn’t bring him back. They took him to Uvalde Memorial Hospital. I’m not sure if they confirmed his death at the house or the hospital,” Martinez continued.
The grieving nephew said it feels like the family was “hit by another truck.”
“It just doesn’t make sense,” he said.
“My heart hurts so bad for my four cousins. I did hear from my little brother that my dad’s chest was hurting, as well. My parents lost family and their best friends.”
Family members have said Joe “died of a broken heart.”
“I truly believe Joe died of a broken heart and losing the love of his life of more than 25 years was too much to bear,” Irma’s cousin Debra Austin wrote in a GoFundMe campaign for the family, which had raised more than $1.8 million as of early Friday. Its goal was to raise $10,000.
The couple’s four children are aged 23, 19, 15 and 13, Martinez said.
The 23-year-old son was completing boot camp with the US Marines and the 19-year-old son is a student at Texas State University, the Guardian reported, citing Irma’s school profile.
One daughter is a high school sophomore and the other is a seventh-grader, the outlet reported. The school profile has apparently since been removed.
Martinez paid tribute to his beloved aunt and uncle, telling the Detroit Free Press they were a hard-working and “true American family.”
“My Tio (Uncle) Joe would work extra hours just to provide for his family. They really are a true American family. They instilled great values and morals in their kids,” he said.
Irma taught alongside Eva Mireles, who was also gunned down by 18-year-old Salvador Ramos in the shooting in Uvalde, near the US border with Mexico.
The teachers reportedly died trying to protect the children from the crazed shooter.
Irma’s school profile she said she enjoyed barbecuing with her husband and listening to music.