A mother who was killed during the mass shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday, is being praised for heroically shielding her children during the massacre.
Joann Ward reportedly saved two of her kids’ lives when she pushed daughter Rihanna Garza, 9, to the floor and shielded three of her younger kids from the bullets being fired by gunman Devin Kelley, according to the Star-Telegram.
Vonda Greek Smith, who is a friend of the Ward family, posted a message on Facebook that recounted a conversation she reportedly had with Rihanna during which the little girl recounted her mom’s bravery.
“I didn’t get shot because I was hiding and momma covered Emily, Ryland and Brooke,” the little girl said.
Smith posted another message on Tuesday that praised her friend’s selfless actions.
I love you Joann Ward… you died giving your own life for your babies as you shielded them from that evil beast… you…
“I love you Joann Ward… you died giving your own life for your babies as you shielded them from that evil beast… you died being exactly like the one you always said you wanted to be like — your Lord & savior, Jesus… you did it!!” she wrote. “You finished the race well, honey!… I always KNEW you would!… so, here we go… it’s all for you, babe!!”
As Faithwire previously reported, Ward’s stepson, Ryland Ward, 5, has been clinging to life in a Texas hospital after he was shot four or five times in his arm, groin and stomach. Ward, his 5-year-old sister, Brooke, and Joann Ward’s other daughter, Emily Garza, were also killed; Emily died at a local hospital after the shooting.
Ward’s husband, Chris, survived, as he was not inside the church, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Ryland’s uncle, Michael Ward, 31, told the outlet that he carried the little boy out of the church after the attack and a helicopter brought Ryland to safety; the child, who was reportedly “clinging to a church pew” after the shooting was listed as being in stable condition as of Tuesday morning, The New York Daily News reported.
“It’s unreal at first,” Michael Ward told The Dallas Morning News on Sunday of the shooting. “The church of all places.
So far, a fundraising effort for Ryland and his family has brought in more than $85,000.