A substitute teacher who relatives said had a “lust for life” and a foreign exchange student from Pakistan were among the first confirmed victims of Friday’s mass shooting at a Texas high school.
Among those injured on Friday were a school resource officer and a sophomore baseball player.
Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, was held on a capital murder charge after authorities said he fatally shot 10 people and wounded 10 others at his high school in Santa Fe, about 30 miles south-east of Houston.
Family members confirmed that substitute teacher Cynthia Tisdale was among those killed. Tisdale’s niece, Leia Olinde, said Tisdale was like a mother to her and helped her shop for wedding dresses last year.
“She helped me put it on, she helped fix my hair,” Olinde, 25, said through tears. “She was wonderful. She was just so loving. I’ve never met a woman who loved her family so much.”
She said Tisdale was married to her husband for close to 40 years and that the two had three children and eight grandchildren. Tisdale’s house was the center for family gatherings and she loved cooking Thanksgiving dinner and decorating her house, Olinde said.
Olinde’s fiance, Eric Sanders, said of Tisdale that “words don’t explain her lust for life and the joy she got from helping people”.
According to a leader at a program for foreign exchange students and the Pakistani Embassy in Washington DC, Pakistani student Sabika Sheikh was also killed.
Megan Lysaght, manager of the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study Abroad program (YES), sent a letter to students in the program confirming the news. “Please know that the YES program is devastated by this loss and we will remember Sabika and her families in our thoughts and prayers,” Lysaght wrote.
She said the program would be holding a moment of silence for the girl, who was pictured beaming in a shirt that said “Texas” in a photo being shared on social media.
Lysaght declined further comment when contacted by the Associated Press and referred calls to a state department spokesman. The Pakistan Embassy in Washington identified Sheikh as a victim of the shooting on Twitter and wrote that “our thoughts and prayers are with Sabika’s family and friends”.
The Pakistan Association of Greater Houston said on Facebook Sabika was due to go home for Eid al-Fitr, a three-day holiday that marks the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.
“May Allah bless her soul and may she RIP,” the statement said.
Among the wounded, school police officer John Barnes was shot in the arm when he confronted the gunman. A bullet damaged the bone and a major blood vessel around Barnes’ elbow, which required surgery to repair, said David Marshall, chief nursing officer at the University of Texas Medical Branch. He said Barnes was in stable condition. Barnes was the first to engage Pagourtzis, according to Marshall.
Sophomore baseball player Rome Shubert said the gunman walked into his classroom and tossed something on to desks. Shubert told the Houston Chronicle he then heard “three loud pops” before the attacker fled into the hall. Shubert said he realized he had been wounded as he was running out of the back door.
Shubert sid he was hit in the back of his head with what he says was a bullet, but that it “missed everything vital”. He also tweeted that he was OK and stable.