A mass shooting at a Texas outlet mall over the weekend nearly decimated two families, leaving three children dead and another orphaned, their loved ones and officials said Monday.
Eight people were fatally shot and a half-dozen more were injured when a 33-year-old gunman, who was later killed by police, opened fire at Allen Premium Outlets, about 25 miles north of Dallas, authorities said.
The victims include a young boy and his parents, two elementary school-aged sisters, a security guard working toward his goals, and an engineer with a master’s degree.
Kyu Song Cho, 37 and Cindy Cho, 35, were shot dead, the Texas Department of Public Safety said in a statement. Their 3-year-old son, James, was also killed, according to a GoFundMe campaign created to help the family and The Dallas Morning News, which cited the Houston office of the South Korean consulate.
The only surviving member of the family is the couple’s oldest child, William, who just turned 6, according to the fundraising page.
Young-Hwan Kim, the Houston consul for South Korea, told NBC News that the family were not Korean nationals but Americans. Though he declined to confirm the identities of the victims, the consul said he had been in contact with the family.
Two young sisters also died in the shooting and their mother, Ilda Mendoza, remains in critical condition, according to a letter sent to parents by the girls’ school.
Daniela Mendoza, a fourth-grader at Cox Elementary in Sachse, Texas, and her sister Sofia Mendoza, a second-grader, were described by the school’s principal as “rays of sunshine.”
“Words cannot express the sadness we feel as we grieve the loss of our students. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Mendoza family, the families of the victims, and all those affected by this senseless tragedy,” Wylie Independent School District Superintendent David Vinson wrote.
“Daniela and Sofia will not be forgotten. Hug your kids, and tell them you love them,” Vinson added.
A member of the Mendoza family declined to comment.
Among the other lives cut short was 26-year-old Aishwarya Thatikonda, according to her employer; she was also a representative from the Telugu Association of North America, a group that serves the Telugu community and is now assisting her family.
Thatikonda was a project engineer at Dallas contracting firm Perfect General Contractors. On the night of the shooting, she had a work meeting scheduled at one of the firm’s projects, her boss Srinivas Chaluvadi told NBC News.
But as 5 p.m. rolled around, Chaluvadi said he received a call from the company architect, alerting him that the always prompt Thatikonda never showed.
“I became more and more fearful and panicked,” Chaluvadi said.
Many hours later, he learned that Thatikonda — whom he admired for her work ethic and kind personality — had been killed.
“It was delayed identification because her face was mutilated, totally unrecognizable,” he said. “It’s a grief I’ve never experienced. I pray that this situation doesn’t happen to anybody.”
Chaluvadi said he and Thatikonda were from the same town in India and that they had grown close since she began working at the firm in 2020.
Over the years, he said, he considered her to be a second daughter. Thatikonda regularly attended several of Chaluvadi’s big family events. And later this month, he was planning on organizing an intimate family dinner to celebrate Thatikonda’s 27th birthday.
Thatikonda earned her master’s degree from Eastern Michigan University in 2020, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Thatikonda’s family will have her remains sent to India, the Telugu Association of North America said.
The shooting also claimed the life of Christian LaCour, a security guard at the mall, his grandmother Sandra Montgomery shared on Facebook.
LaCour was a “such a beautiful soul,” who had “goals for his future” and made his grandmother proud, Montgomery wrote, adding that she last saw him two weeks ago.
The Texas Department of Public Safety said Monday that the 23-year-old was from the town of Nevada, northeast of Dallas.
The department also said that Elio Cumana-Rivas, 32, was gunned down in the shooting.
The mass shooting was the second deadliest in the U.S. this year and the second in Texas in a little over a week.
“I know this is almost unbearable,” Montgomery wrote.