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Texas Church Shooting: Mother killed while trying to protect children from gunfire

Neighbor says mother, two daughters killed; son shot five times

Courtesy: Vonda Greek Smith
Courtesy: Vonda Greek Smith

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas – In the aftermath of the deadliest shooting in Texas history, one family is mourning three family members and praying for the recovery of a 5-year-old boy who was shot five times. 

A gunman entered the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday morning and opened fire during a worship service that typically brings in around 50 people.

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JoAnn Ward and her two daughters -- Brooke Ward, 5, and Emily Garza, 7, -- were among the 26 victims who died in the massacre, according to relatives

Ward’s 5-year-old son, Ryland was among the 20 people who were injured in the shooting, suffering from five gunshot wounds, according to relatives.

A 9-year-old daughter named Rihanna was also in the church and survived the attack unharmed.

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David Lyons, who has lived across the street from the Ward family since May, learned of the tragedy from Ward’s father-in-law, Raymond Ward Sr., on Monday morning.

“He (Ward Sr.) said, ‘JoAnn and the two girls are dead. They got shot here at the church. By the time we got to the church, they were airlifted. We don’t know if he (Ryland) is going to make it or not,’” Lyons said. 

Lyons said Ward Sr. was “pretty upset” and told him that one of the gunshots wounds went up the little boy’s leg and came out of his groin.

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Earl McMahan, Ryland's uncle, told KSAT’s Stephanie Serna that he found out on Sunday that his nephew had been shot and was airlifted to University Hospital.

“He's 5 years old. He was shot five times. His legs, his stomach, his arms … He's been through quite a bit," McMahan said. “We're just going to continue to pray for his well-being. Two of the sisters and the stepmother have passed. So, the father is dealing with quite a bit."

According to JoAnn’s friend, Vonda Greek Smith, who was given permission by the family to update on Facebook, Ward had pushed down all her children when she saw the gunman enter the church and open fire on them.

"Little Rihanna was there at the shooting but mommy pushed her down when she saw the shooter open fire," Smith said on Facebook.

"So in her (Rihanna's) words, 'I didn’t get shot because I was hiding, and momma covered Emily, Ryland & Brooke,'” according to Smith’s Facebook post. 

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agarcia@ksat.com


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