Loved ones mourn shooting victims as policy debate rages
Tearful mourners hugged at a service to remember a student gunned down in Ohio. In Mexico, relatives and friends gathered for the wake of a teacher slain at a store in Texas.
With a policy debate raging over what to do after the United States’ latest mass shootings — at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, and an entertainment district in Dayton, Ohio — loved ones of the more than 30 people who were killed are struggling with the aftermath.
Here are the stories of some of the victims:
EL PASO, TEXAS
ELSA MENDOZA: ‘THE MOST WONDERFUL OF WOMEN’
Elsa Mendoza, 57, was an elementary school teacher from Juarez, Mexico, who lost her life while stopping by the Walmart.
Her husband, teacher Antonio de la Mora, posted a smiling photo of the two of them on Facebook and called his late wife “the most wonderful of women.”
Her body was returned across the border to her city Wednesday, and former students, teachers and classmates visited her family.
.Jose Hernández Polo had Mendoza for 10th grade Spanish in El Paso during a period of her teaching career that took her to the other side of the border. She was patient and always looking to help her students, he said.
“She was a very good teacher,” he said. “She knew a very cultural, literary Spanish.”
GLORIA IRMA MARQUEZ: COMPANION SOUGHT HER FOR HOURS
Just minutes before the shooter entered the Walmart store in El Paso, Gloria Irma Marquez headed to the ATM while her companion waited at McDonald’s.
For five hours after the shooting, John Ogaz, Marquez’s companion of 11 years, called her phone from the parking lot. Sixty-one-year-old Marquez was among those killed.
The two lived together in El Paso, surrounded by children and grandchildren. “The kids were everything to her,” Ogaz told The Washington Post.
Marquez, who was born in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, moved to the U.S. more than two decades ago. Her first two children were born in Mexico, her second two in the United States. She worked as a health care assistant for elderly patients.
Ogaz said he and Marquez considered each other husband and wife, even though they never formally married.
JUAN VELAZQUEZ: BORN IN MEXICO, FOUGHT TO GET AHEAD IN U.S.
Juan and Nicholasa Velazquez had just parked their car at the Walmart store in El Paso when they were approached by the shooter.
Their granddaughter, Daisy Fuentes, told KTSM-TV that after being shot, her grandmother called Fuentes’ mother.
“They were just crying telling us that it hurt where they shot them at, it hurt,” Fuentes said.
Both were hospitalized but 77-year-old Juan Velazquez, who was shot in the side of his stomach, died Monday. Nicholasa Velazquez was shot in the face and stomach, but relatives said her prognosis is good.
Cruz Velazquez told The New York Times his father, who was born in the Mexican state of Zacatecas, moved first to Ciudad Juarez, located across the border from El Paso, and then to Denver, where he lived for 30 years. He eventually moved to El Paso because it was peaceful.
“He fought to get ahead in the United States,” said Cruz Velazquez, who said his father had become a U.S. citizen.
LEO AND MARIBEL CAMPOS: RELATIVES TRACKED THEM TO SHOOTING SCENE
When news broke that there had been a shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, family members called Leonardo “Leo” Cepeda Campos and Maribel Loya Campos to make sure they were OK. Initially, they weren’t worried when they didn’t hear back.
“We just thought they’d call us back,” Campos’ brother, David Campos, told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
But then, he said, one of her relatives tracked their phones by GPS to inside the Walmart. Authorities later told them that 41-year-old Leo Campos and 56-year-old Maribel Campos both died at the store.
David Campos said his brother had recently returned to college to complete his degree. He said the couple had been together for about two decades and were “just really welcoming and friendly.”
“Everybody says that as soon as you meet them, it’s like you’ve known them forever,” he said.
Leo Campos went to high school in the Rio Grande Valley area of South Texas. A statement from the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District said he graduated from high school there in 1996.
School Board President Jesse Zambrano said Campos was “a great athlete and friend to many” while in high school. Zambrano said Campos was a “role model to many athletes that looked up to him, including me.”
DAVID JOHNSON: FATHER WHO SAVED WIFE AND GRANDDAUGHTER
An account of self-sacrifice emerged Monday involving a grandfather who died in the mass shooting in El Paso, while his wife and granddaughter survived.
Stephanie Melendez said that her 63-year-old father, David Johnson, was shot and killed near the checkout counters at the Walmart where the attack took place. She credits Johnson with saving the life of her 9-year-old daughter and his own wife by thrusting them to the floor below a counter and out of the way of gunfire before he was killed.
“He saved them,” Melendez said. “He pushed them underneath.” Johnson’s wife was unavailable to describe the events firsthand.
Raul Melendez believes his daughter’s life was saved by the actions of Johnson, but still worries about what she may have witnessed.
“I hope she didn’t get to see anything and that she’s not affected later on,” he said.
Co-workers of Johnson, a salesman, delivered flowers and food as family members gathered in mourning on Monday evening at a one-story home.
MARGIE RECKARD: ‘AN ANGEL’ TO HUSBAND
El Paso shooting victim Margie Reckard, 63, was “an angel” to Antonio Basco, her husband of more than two decades.
Basco told KFOX-TV that he and Reckard were together for 22 years, and her kindness and selflessness were incomparable.
“I mean you didn’t even have to be there to talk to her. You could just look at how she was, how she acted, how she presented herself. She was an awesome lady,” he said. “You see Margie, more or less, was the brains of the family.”
Basco said he and Reckard knew there was something between them as soon as they met, and their life together was like something out of a fairy tale. Reckard was the strong one, he said, and she’s “going to be missed a lot.”
“We were gonna live together and die together,” he said. “That was our plan.”
RAUL AND MARIA FLORES: TOGETHER IN LIFE AND DEATH
Raul and Maria Flores died as they lived: Together.
Married for 60 years, 83-year-old Raul and 77-year-old Maria were rarely separated. With the man set for heart surgery on Monday, they had gone to Walmart to purchase airbeds for relatives who were expected to be in El Paso for the operation. They were fatally shot at the store.
Their oldest son, Raul Flores Jr., told The Washington Post he took comfort in knowing they were together when they died, even though they didn’t deserve to go that way.
“I tell myself, maybe it’s the Lord’s way of doing it,” Flores said. “Maybe He knew my father wasn’t going to make it during the surgery, and maybe He knew that if anything happened to my father, my mother would be destroyed. Maybe that’s why He decided to take them together.”
Both born in Mexico, the couple settled east of Los Angeles to raise their family and retired to El Paso about two decades ago.
JAVIER AMIR RODRIGUEZ: HIGH SCHOOL SOPHOMORE
Javier Amir Rodriguez, 15, was starting his sophomore year in high school when he was fatally shot at the store.
The Clint Independent School District, which identified the teen as being among the victims Monday, said he attended Horizon High School in El Paso.
The district said it had been in contact with his family and sent condolences. Valeria Chavez, a cousin of the youth, told KFOX-TV that Rodriquez was at the Walmart with an uncle who described what happened.
“He told me my cousin had made eye contact with the shooter and they were in the bank and as soon as the shooter walked in, he grabbed my cousin. He says he saw the shooter shoot him,” Chavez said.
The school district said counselors would be available, and a vigil was set for Monday night at the high school’s football stadium.
ARTURO BENAVIDES: EASYGOING ARMY VETERAN
Arturo Benavides, a U.S. Army veteran who retired as a bus driver a few years ago, was checking out at the Walmart store when the gunman entered.
His niece, Jacklin Luna, told the Los Angeles Times that 60-year-old Benavides was among those killed. His wife, Patricia, was sitting on a nearby bench and was pushed into a bathroom for safety, Luna said.
Benavides, who was born and raised in El Paso, had worked as a bus driver for El Paso’s Sun Metro.
“I spent my childhood waking up at their house, sitting out on the front porch with him on Sunday mornings, listening to the oldies on the radio,” said Luna, who described him as kind and generous.
His nephew, Ruben Rojas, said Benavides was an “easygoing” man who enjoyed watching sports and was also a good Roman Catholic who went to Mass.
IVAN MANZANO: A FRIENDLY AND PRACTICAL MAN
Ivan Manzano, who had a 5-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son, was from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, and ran a business that supplies orthopedic implants.
His wife, Adriana Manzano, learned from the FBI that he was killed in the shooting in the Walmart. She traveled to the Mexican consulate in El Paso on Monday to repatriate her husband’s body, and said he was known by everyone as friendly, calm — “very practical.”
Adriana Manzano said she has told her children only that their father had died in an “accident,” believing that giving a full explanation might generate resentments.
A relative in Ciudad Juarez who asked not to be named because extended family was not speaking to the press described Manzano as a loving son and father. The relative said that after Manzano’s mother had a heart attack in April and required surgery, he practically moved in with her to monitor her progress.
The relative said that on Saturday, Manzano and a friend had crossed the border to shop in El Paso.
JORDAN ANCHONDO: ‘GAVE HER LIFE’ FOR HER BABY
Jordan Anchondo was among those killed in El Paso, Anchondo’s sister said, and she apparently died while protecting her 2-month-old son from the hail of bullets.
Leta Jamrowski of El Paso spoke to The Associated Press as she paced a waiting room at the University Medical Center of El Paso, where her 2-month-old nephew was being treated for broken bones — the result of his mother’s fall.
“From the baby’s injuries, they said that more than likely my sister was trying to shield him,” she said. “So when she got shot she was holding him and she fell on him, so that’s why he broke some of his bones. So he pretty much lived because she gave her life.”
Jordan, a mother of three, and Andre Anchondo had dropped off her 5-year old daughter at cheerleading practice before going to shop for school supplies Saturday at Walmart. They never returned.
ANDRE ANCHONDO: HAD TURNED HIS LIFE AROUND
Andre Anchondo — the husband of Jordan Anchondo — had recently turned his life around after struggles with drug dependence and run-ins with the law, a friend recalled.
On Sunday night, John Jamrowski, the grandfather of Jordan Anchondo, said in a text message that his family has been notified of Andre Anchondo’s death.
Friend Koteiba “Koti” Azzam had fond memories of Andre Anchondo.
“I love the guy,” Azzam said in a phone interview from San Marcos, Texas. “He had the character and the charisma.”
Azzam said Andre Anchondo had started a business in El Paso, building things from granite and stone, and made it successful through hard work. He also was on the verge of completing a family home.
“It makes you question your faith almost,” said Azzam, who is Muslim. “But God didn’t have a part in it. The hands of man altered my friend’s life in a drastic way.”
ANGIE ENGLISBEE: DEVOTED TO FAMILY, GOD
Angie Englisbee, 86, loved to watch sports and “General Hospital” on television, but a relative said it was her children and religious faith that drew her ultimate devotion.
Jacob Hallberg wrote a tribute on his Facebook page saying the woman, killed in the store shooting in Texas, was widowed at an early age and raised seven children on her own.
“Working numerous jobs at the same time to feed her family, life was hard. Through her hard work her children all became strong but extremely caring and compassionate and productive members of our community,” he wrote.
Hallberg described his grandmother as praying daily, attending mass regularly at her Roman Catholic church and always being ready for company.
“She made the very best red beans and rice and red chili pozole. She always had a hot pot of fresh coffee for her visitors and a quick meal,” he wrote.
DERRICK FUDGE: DEVOTED TO HIS SON, SALVATION ARMY VOLUNTEER
Derrick Fudge died in the company of the son he loved so much.
Jeffrey Fudge, Fudge’s brother, said the 57-year-old man stopped by a gathering on Saturday before heading to the Oregon District entertainment area for a birthday celebration with a group that included his son Dion Green.
The group was leaving a club when Fudge was shot, his brother said.
“Even though that was a tragic incident, I thank God that he got to be there with his son. And I’m saddened that it happened the way it happened but at least he was with family, you know, with the one he loved the most in this world,” he said.
Fudge was known for wanting to assist others at the Salvation Army office where he helped out as a volunteer and bell-ringer. Speaking to WLWT-TV, Ray Ryan, who worked alongside Fudge, described a man who was friendly and compassionate.
“Every day, I remember him popping his head in and being, like, ‘Hey, Pastor Ryan how are you?’” said Ray.
THOMAS McNICHOLS: FATHER OF FOUR
Known by the nickname “TeeJay,” 25-year-old Thomas McNichols was the father of four, said aunt Donna Johnson.
After McNichols got off work from a factory on Saturday, Johnson told the Dayton Daily News the two sat eating Twizzlers together before he headed out with a cousin. A niece called later telling her to get to the shooting scene, Johnson said.
McNichols’ children, two girls and two boys, range in age from 2 to 8, she said.
“Everybody loved him. He was like a big kid,” Johnson said. “When all of the movies come out - Batman, Black Panther - he would get all his nephews and take them to the movies.”
SAEED SALEH: IMMIGRANT FROM AFRICA, FATHER OF THREE
A native of East Africa who moved to the United States a few years ago, Ohio shooting victim Saeed Saleh was remembered as a “humble and quiet person” by a spokesman for his family.
Yahya Khamis, president of the Sudanese Community of Dayton, said Monday that he was speaking on behalf of Saleh’s family and coordinating funeral plans for the 38-year-old. Khamis said he didn’t know Saleh well but called him kindhearted.
“He was a very good guy,” Khamis said.
A father of three, Saleh was originally from Eritrea in East Africa and later lived in Sudan before immigrating to the United States a few years ago, he said.
He said Saleh’s friends and family were thankful for the support they had received from the Dayton community.
MONICA BRICKHOUSE: POSITIVE PERSON, SUPERVISOR
Monica Brickhouse was a Springfield, Ohio, native who had been working as a recovery specialist for Anthem in Virginia Beach before recently relocating back to Ohio.
Damian Seaton, who worked with Brickhouse at a bank call center before it was closed down, remembered her as an excellent supervisor.
“She was just a very positive person,” Seaton told WAVY-TV. “You always knew when you sat with her you had an easygoing spirit, somebody who was going to help you, advise you in the right way.”
Her LinkedIn profile said she received an associate’s degree from College for America at Southern New Hampshire University in 2017 and volunteered for Toys for Tots. Friend Brittany Hart wrote on Facebook that Brickhouse and another victim, Beatrice Warren-Curtis, “checked in on my family and made your love for my family known.”
Brickhouse was also part of Two Good Girls, an event planning and catering business, according to her Facebook page.
BEATRICE NICOLE WARREN-CURTIS: HEALTH INSURANCE WORKER WAS SELFLESS
Beatrice Nicole Warren-Curtis, 36, was a friend of Monica Brickhouse, and they were together when they died in the Dayton massacre.
Anthem Insurance Cos. released a statement saying both women worked for the health insurer and were “dear friends.” Known by her middle name, Warren-Curtis worked at the company’s Virginia Beach, Virginia, location.
Ricky Brown said he went to school with Warren-Curtis in Delaware, her native state, and considered her a good friend.
Brown told the Cincinnati Enquirer that Warren-Curtis was “fun, caring, genuine and selfless.”
“She was always supportive, always checked on me,” he said. “She had a good heart and would do anything for anyone. She was overall a great person to know and be around.”
MEGAN BETTS: GUNMAN’S SISTER WAS ARTISTIC, POLITE
A classmate remembered Ohio shooting victim Megan Betts, the sister of the gunman, as “artistic, polite” and someone who “loved going to band class.”
Addison Brickler, 23, rode the bus to school with Connor and Megan Betts. Megan would sit with her friend on the bus every day, Brickler said.
“She always had a smile on her face,” Brickler said.
“It’s harder for me to wrap my head around why he would do this to someone, his sister.”
NICHOLAS CUMER: HELPED CANCER PATIENTS
Mourners consoled each other Tuesday at a mass for Nicholas Cumer, a graduate student killed in the Dayton massacre.
Cumer was in the master of cancer care program at Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania, where President Malachi Van Tassell said he was “dedicated to caring for others.”
The family released a statement through a relative saying they are “heartbroken by the loss of our Nicholas” and asking for privacy.
Cumer had been in Dayton as part of his internship program with the Maple Tree Cancer Alliance, which strives to improve the quality of life for those with cancer through exercise, nutrition and faith.
“He was well liked and respected by everyone on our team, and we all will miss him very much,” the organization said in a statement. Cumer was a week away from completing his internship.
Van Tassell said a Mass in Cumer’s memory will be arranged on campus this week.
LOIS OGLESBY: NURSING STUDENT WHO WANTED TO CARE FOR CHILDREN
Lois Oglesby, 27, was in nursing school and looked forward to a career that would make the most of her love for children, her cousin said. She was also the mother of a newborn and had an older daughter.
Derasha Merrett told the Dayton Daily News that she was up feeding her own newborn when a friend called her at 3 a.m. Sunday to tell her, through sobs, that Oglesby had died in the Dayton shooting.
“She was a wonderful mother, a wonderful person,” Merrett said. “I have cried so much, I can’t cry anymore.”
Merrett said she and her cousin grew up in the same church and that Oglesby worked at her children’s day care center.
“We all grew up in this little town,” Merrett said. “We’re all family.”
LOGAN TURNER: ‘GENEROUS AND LOVING,’ HAD JUST TURNED 30
Just days past his 30th birthday, Logan Turner was “very generous and loving and the world’s best son,” mother Danita Turner told the Dayton Daily News.
“Everyone loved Logan,” she said. “He was a happy-go-lucky guy.”
Turner said her son was out with a few friends when he was shot just outside a bar in Dayton’s historic Oregon District.
Turner had a degree from Sinclair Community College and went on to earn an engineering degree from the University of Toledo, his mother said. He also attended Wright State University for a while, according to Seth Bauguess, spokesman for the university in Dayton.
Turner’s mother said he had recently started working as a machinist at a company in Springboro.
Stengle reported from Dallas. Lee reported from El Paso. AP reporters Amy Guthrie in Mexico City; Christopher Sherman in Ciudad Juarez; Andrew Selsky in Salem, Oregon; Lisa Cornwell in Cincinnati, Ohio; Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus, Ohio; Becky Bohrer in Juneau, Alaska; Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama; and AP researchers Jennifer Farrar, Randy Herschaft and Rhonda Shafner in New York and Monika Mathur in Washington contributed to this report.