As the Santa Fe High School community continues to reel from the devastating shooting that took place on campus last week, stories of horror and trauma have begun to bubble to the surface. Alongside these recollections of terror, however, are some stunning examples of the brave human spirit. One of the heroes of that day has emerged, and his name is Christian “Riley” Garcia.
Garcia, who was just 15 years of age, was shot dead Friday as he mustered all his strength to block an art classroom door in order to keep other students safe from the deadly gunfire. This was according to the family’s pastor Keenan Smith, who has spoken out about the heroic young man.
“He was holding the door shut when the shooter was trying to gain access into that art room … the shooter shot through the door, taking his (Garcia’s) life,” Smith told CNN. But Garcia managed to hold back the shooter long enough to allow other students to escape out a back exit. He saved their lives and laid down his own in the process.
“We know there were several lives lost but his story is a story of true heroism. He gave himself so others would have a chance. He was against the door trying to help his teacher, trying to help another student, and trying to shield the others there,” Smith added. “That’s not what’s supposed to happen to a 15-year-old’s life that he has to make those decisions. But he made them without even thinking about it, because it was his heart. This is who he was as an individual.”
“He was a good kid, he was compassionate, he was loving, caring and caring for other people, to the point that he desired to serve in the military when he was of age,” the pastor said of this brave young man, as reported by CBS News.
Smith, who had the privilege of baptizing Garcia, hoped that the teen’s family would find some level of comfort in knowing the details of their son’s staggering heroics.
“As the news came in to his mother, I was with her. She broke, of course as you can imagine,” the pastor explained, as reported by ABC 13. “Thinking that but yet also proud of her son that he thought outside of himself but also wanting to hold her baby. It’s a difficult thing. At 15 years old, that’s not what you’re supposed to give your life doing.”
“This doesn’t ease the pain any. It doesn’t stop the void that will forever be there, but it does bring a measure of peace,” he added.
Garcia and his family attended a memorial service for their son which was held at nearby Crosby Church on Monday night for the slain teen. Riley way pictured alongside a favorite Bible verse of his, Psalm 46:10 which reads:
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
“Here is Riley about ten days ago writing scripture on the door frame of what was to be his new bedroom,” Pastor Keenan Smith explained. “Riley you are greatly loved and greatly missed.”
Pray for Riley’s family as they come to terms with this devastating loss.