One victim of Friday’s school shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas is being praised as a hero who died saving lives.
When Riley Garcia, 15, saw that shooting suspect Dimitrios Pagourtzis was trying to get into his first-period art class armed with guns, he did everything he could to try to stop him, investigators told his family, according to their pastor, Keenan Smith.
Oxygen.com spoke to Smith, who is a pastor at Crosby Church in Crosby, Texas, about a forty minute drive from Santa Fe. He baptized Garcia and saw him on an almost weekly basis until the family moved recently. Smith said that the Garcia family has asked him to speak to the media about Garcia because the family is too upset.
“The investigators told his parents that Smith was holding the door shut, to keep the shooter out,” Smith explained, adding that there are closets in the art room that allow access to other rooms.
“My understanding from the investigators is that it appeared he was holding the door shut and then the shooter then shot through the door, taking Riley’s life and then coming in and shooting a couple of other students there,” Smith said.
Even though Garcia tragically lost his life, his swift action allowed others to survive.
“During those moments, other students were able to escape through those closets and through the other art room and out the back door. His sacrifice did save other lives,” he said.
Smith said that Garcia was the type of kid who would jump in and help someone in need. He wouldn’t ask to help. He just would.
“He was compassionate and very loving,” Smith said. “A very wonderful young man.”
He added that he was a great big brother to his little sister Candace. Faith was also important to him. On Thursday nights, including the evening before he would lose his life, Smith said Garcia and his mom were reading scripture, a normal routine for them.
“He had great concern for others that manifested in his life and in his death,” Smith told Oxygen.com. “He put his concern for other people above himself. [...] His service for others is something that we can not only all be proud of but I think take notes from. Maybe we all need to take a look outside of ourselves a little bit more.”
Garcia wanted to serve in the military, his pastor said.
[Photo: Keenan Smith]