On May 24, just days away from summer vacation, fourth-grader Amerie Jo Garza was killed in her elementary school classroom as she tried to call 911 for help during a mass shooting.
On Tuesday, the Girl Scouts announced that they posthumously awarded her one of its highest honors for risking, and ultimately giving, her life to save others.
The organization gave 10-year-old Garza the Bronze Cross, which is awarded “for saving or attempting to save life at the risk of the Girl Scout’s own life.”
In an interview with CNN, Garza’s stepfather Angel Garza told Anderson Cooper of the moment he discovered what happened to his daughter. He’s a medical aid who was responding to the scene when he came across to a little girl who was “covered in blood head to toe.” He thought she was injured, and went up to her to help.
“She was hysterical saying that they shot her best friend, that they killed her best friend, she’s not breathing, and that she was trying to call the cops,” Garza said. When he asked the little girl what her friend’s name was, she told him it was his stepdaughter.
Angel Garza said that “she was just trying to do the right thing” when she called the police. He said Amerie Jo had been wanting a phone for so long, and that they finally gave her one for her birthday just two weeks before.
“She was so scared of just strangers and things like this. She would lock the door when I would step out to put gas in the car. This is literally her worst fear and she was just trying to help everyone,” he said.
“She just tried to call the police. I got confirmation from two of the students in her classroom that she was just trying to call authorities. And I guess he just shot her,” he cried, clutching a photo of Amerie Jo to his chest. “How do you look at this girl and shoot her?”
On Friday, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw unveiled a timeline of the shooting, saying that from 11:30 a.m. to 12:51 p.m., there were 11 different calls made to 911, most of them from children, none of whom were publicly identified.
“On May 24, Amerie did all she could to save the lives of her classmates and teachers,” Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas tweeted. “…We will carry her story with us always and ensure her brave actions will endure for generations.”
Girl Scouts awarded the Bronze Cross to Garza’s family and conducted the Presentation of Colors at her funeral on Tuesday. She was the first of the 21 people killed during the Robb Elementary School shooting to be buried.
Amerie’s call to 911 was not her first act of standing up for those around her.
On Monday, David Treviñ told The Texas Tribune that his 11-year-old daughter had faced significant bullying at Robb Elementary. Amerie Jo Garza stuck up for her against those who put her down.
“[My daughter] is taking it really hard,” Treviño said, as his daughter sobbed during a vigil for Amerie. “She would protect her from the bullies.”
In a GoFundMe for Amerie, her mother’s best friend describes her as a “beautiful soul” who “touched everyone’s hearts around her.”
“She lit up every room she walked into,” her mom’s friend Jasmine wrote. “She received an award yesterday for honor roll just before the shooting occurred. She was so smart and such a good child.”