Uvalde, Texas — A 10-year-old girl was trying to call 911 for help when she was shot during the Texas school massacre.
Amerie Jo Garza, described as the “sweetest girl”, had just celebrated her 10th birthday, two weeks before she and her classmates were gunned down Tuesday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.
The fourth-grader had received an Honor Roll certificate the same day and was seen smiling with the certificate in her hands. She was shot later that morning after the armed suspect burst into her classroom and opened fire.
Her grandmother, Berlinda Arreola, 49, said Amerie was trying to call 911 when the suspect, identified as 18-year-old gunman Salvador Ramos, shot her.
“He could have just taken her phone,” Arreola told PEOPLE. “He could have just broken it, done something. And he just shot her.”
“She was a hero who tried to call 911 to save her and her friends,” the grandmother added
Amerie’s father, a first responder, recounted the moment he found out what had happened to his daughter. Angel Garza said he arrived at the school as a medical assistant and saw a child “covered from head to toe with blood,” the father told CNN.
“I thought she was injured, I asked her what was going on and she said she was fine,” Angel told the outlet. “She was hysterical, saying they shot her best friend, they killed her best friend, and she wasn’t breathing and she tried to call the police. And I asked the little girl’s name and… she said Amerie.’
“She was so sweet,” the grieving father said through tears. “… She was the sweetest girl who didn’t do anything wrong. She listened to her mom and dad, she always brushed her teeth, she was creative, she made things for us, she never got into trouble at school.”
“I just want to know what she did to be a victim,” he added.
Angel said his daughter has wanted a cell phone for so long and got one for her 10th birthday. She used the same phone to try to call the police during the shooting.
Amerie is one of 19 students and two teachers killed in the shooting.
The suspect, Ramos, first shot his grandmother before entering elementary school and barricading himself in a fourth-grade classroom. Several children were also injured in the disaster.
A fundraising page has been set up for the relatives of Amerie.
“Amerie was such a beautiful soul,” said a GoFundMe post. “She touched the hearts of everyone around her and she lit up every room she entered. She got an award… just before the shooting happened. She was so smart and such a good child. Amerie is known as a hero and tried to call 911 before the shooter took her life.”