The loved one of a teacher slain in Tuesday’s Uvalde, Texas, school shooting – which resulted in the death of 19 elementary school kids and two adults – is remembering the woman as a "hero" as investigators continue to search for clues as to the gunman’s possible motive in the attack.
Fourth grade teacher Eva Mireles "put love into everything she did – with her daughter, with her family, with the school – and I will always remember her, honestly, as a hero for doing what she did," Amber Ybarra told Fox News on Wednesday.
Mireles, 44, described herself as a teacher of 17 years, who was married with a grown daughter and three "furry friends," according to a message on Robb Elementary School’s website from the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. She added that she loved running and hiking and her students "just might see me riding a bike!!"
In the introduction to her message, Mireles wrote: "We have a wonderful year ahead of us!"
Thursday was supposed to be the last day of classes at Robb Elementary School before summer break. But on Tuesday, suspected gunman Salvador Ramos, 18, entered the school property armed with a rifle and ultimately opened fire.
Earlier on Tuesday, Ramos was involved in a domestic disturbance with his grandmother at his grandparents’ Uvalde home, where he had been living, when he shot the woman in the face and seriously injured her, authorities said.
Approximately 30 minutes before the events unfolded, Ramos allegedly wrote in a series of Facebook messages, "I’m going to shoot my grandmother," "I’ve shot my grandmother," and then: "I’m going to shoot an elementary school."
He then fled and crashed his vehicle near Robb Elementary School, authorities said.
Ramos entered the school and encountered a school police officer who confronted him at the front door, officials told Fox News. The pair exchanged gunfire and Ramos allegedly dropped his bag of ammunition, which authorities predicted saved lives. The officer was wounded during the exchange.
Ramos then allegedly barricaded himself inside a fourth grade classroom, where he opened fire on students and school staff, officials and law enforcement sources said.
He barricaded himself inside the first classroom "that he was able to gain access to," Texas Department of Public Safety Lt. Chris Olivarez said. He then began targeting the students and teachers inside, Olivarez says.
According to law enforcement sources, local police tried to breach the classroom doors, and officers were shot at and injured. A team with the Border Patrol Tactical Unit were then able to enter the classroom, and one of the agents was able to fatally shoot the gunman, sources say.
Twenty-two people, including 19 children and the gunman, were killed. At least 17 others remained injured as of Wednesday, Texas Department of Public Safety said.
Speaking to Fox News on Wednesday, Ybarra said her cousin "had laughter that was absolutely contagious. And she really treated everyone with so much light and love."
She added: "You could not keep a straight face around her. She was just a good person."
Ybarra, who now lives in San Antonio, grew up in the Uvalde area, and her family still lives down the street from the shooting. She said she received a phone call from her mother on Tuesday, telling her that she had just gone outside to get the mail and saw the FBI in the area of the school.
"I was talking to her and just trying to make sure that she was okay, too," she said. "People in that neighborhood, whether it's elderly people or kids, just families in general. With no answers. Hearing all these sirens, I can't imagine."