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2 families lost multiple loved ones in the Texas outlet mall shooting

<i>Brianna Smith</i><br/>
Brianna Smith
Brianna Smith

By Christina Zdanowicz, Caroll Alvarado and Kelly McCleary, CNN

A family of four has become a family of one after a 6-year-old’s parents and brother were fatally shot by a gunman at a Texas outlet mall Saturday, a GoFundMe post by the family’s friends said.

The Houston office of the South Korean Consulate confirmed Monday that three Korean Americans — husband Cho Kyu Song, 37, and wife, Kang Shin Young, 35, as well as one of their children — were killed in the shooting, according to the Dallas Morning News. The child’s name and age were not given.

“Cindy, Kyu and three year old James were among those victims that tragically lost their lives and the family is in deep mourning,” a GoFundMe post read, written by friends of the family, referring to the family by their American names. “After being released from the ICU, their six year old son William is the only surviving member of this horrific event.”

Eight people were shot dead and at least seven others wounded before the gunman was killed by an Allen police officer who was already at the retail center on an unrelated call, police said.

It was one of more than 200 mass shootings in the US so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which like CNN defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more people are shot, not including the shooter. People going about their daily lives in schools, parks, grocery stores and medical buildings in communities big and small must now grapple with the trauma and grief that lingers when the shooting stops.

Here’s what we know so far about those killed in the Texas shooting:

The Cho family

Trinity Whitley knew two members of the Cho family — she was James’ day care teacher and Cindy was her dentist, she told CNN affiliate WFAA on Monday at a memorial outside the mall.

A gray, stuffed elephant is pinned to James’ cross at the memorial. James loved wearing elephant bibs and shirts, Whitley said.

“(James) was innocent, and he did nothing wrong,” Whitley told WFAA. “He loved elephants, loved elephants.”

Whitley remembers her student for his brilliant mind, she said.

“He was sweet and smart, and he was so cute,” Whitley told WFAA. “I’ve never actually met a 3-year-old that was that smart. … He was writing his own name.”

James’ favorite color was green, Whitley said. The teacher added a green balloon to his memorial.

“He was a super sweet kid and every day we’re going to miss him. And there won’t be a day we’re not thinking about him,” she said.

Whitley said she was struck by Cindy’s kindness, she told WFAA.

“She was so sweet, and she would always say thank you that (the daycare staff) always takes care of her son,” Whitley said.

Cindy strived to help her patients as a doctor in the dental field, said The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Dentistry, where she graduated from in 2013.

“She was a kind and caring student, always doing the best to help improve the health and lives of her patients,” the dental school’s dean, Dr. Peter M. Loomer, said. “She continued that spirit of compassion and dedication to excellence in her dental practice. She will be greatly missed, and our hearts go out to her family and friends.”

Daniela and Sofia Mendoza

Sisters Daniela and Sofia Mendoza were both elementary school students in the Wylie Independent School District, according to a letter sent to parents by the district.

Daniela was in fourth grade and her sister was in second grade, the letter said. Their mother, Ilda Mendoza, is in the hospital in critical condition.

“Words cannot express the sadness we feel as we grieve the loss of our students,” the letter reads. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Mendoza family, the families of the victims, and all those affected by this senseless tragedy.”

Cox Elementary School Principal Krista Wilson described the sisters as “rays of sunshine” in the letter.

“Daniela and Sofia will not be forgotten,” the letter read. “Hug your kids, and tell them you love them.”

The school district says it is not announcing the news to the students and is leaving it up to parents to have that conversation with their children. Counseling services are being offered for students, staff and families, the letter said.

“Please hold the Mendoza family close to your heart. We know in times of tragedy, our community rallies around each other, and we will do all we can to support the family and friends of the precious students we lost.”

Elio Cumana-Rivas

Elio Cumana-Rivas, 32, worked hard to support his mother and father who live in Venezuela, his brother Gregory Smith Cumana told CNN on Tuesday.

Cumana-Rivas worked as a delivery man in Texas and frequently checked in on his family in Venezuela, his brother said.

“We were all very close,” said Cumana. “He helped his mother buy her medicine, and he would also contact our dad and make sure he had everything he needed.”

Cumana-Rivas moved to the United States in 2022 after living a few months in Panama, his brother said.

“Elio’s goal was to grow as a person and his dream was to find a place where he could grow and help his loved ones. That’s what drove him to move to Panama and then the United States,” Cumana said.

The family found out about Cumana-Rivas’ death after an American law enforcement official contacted his younger brother who’s living in Chile, Cumana said.

“We were watching the news about the Venezuelans who got hit by a car in Texas. But we never would’ve imagined that my brother would end up being a victim of the shooting that happened Saturday,” Cumana said. “My father is going through a very hard time right now. It’s a pain you can’t describe.”

Fernando Guitian, who described himself as a family friend, said he remembers spending time with Cumana-Rivas in Venezuela.

“I knew Elio since he was a child,” Guitian said. “He grew up playing with my daughters. We all lived in Higuerote.”

Guitian described Cumana-Rivas as a good person and a hard-worker who “adored his mother.”

The family plans to cremate his remains and have them sent back to Venezuela.

Christian LaCour

Security guard Christian LaCour saved a person during the shooting and tried to help others, City of Allen Police Chief Brian Harvey said in a news conference Tuesday.

“We also must acknowledge the bravery of Allied (Universal) security guard Christian LaCour, who evacuated one individual to safety and was shot while courageously remaining to help others,” Harvey said.

LaCour was a well-liked security guard at the outlets.

“Christian was a sweet, caring young man who was loved greatly by our family,” his sister Brianna Smith told CNN.

The 20-year-old was “the kind of person who would just walk into the store and everyone in the room would light up because he was there,” said Max Weiss, a mall store employee.

“Every time he was in the store, it felt safer,” Weiss added. “He brought laughter and joy and always knew what to say.”

Aishwarya Thatikonda

Aishwarya Thatikonda was killed while visiting the mall with a friend, CNN affiliate WFAA reported.

Thatikonda was a few days away from turning 28, Ashok Kolla, a spokesperson with the Telugu Association of North America told CNN. The organization helps the Telugu community in the United States.

Family and friends described Thatikonda as a loving and hard-working person who was respected by co-workers, Kolla said.

Thatikonda worked as an engineer, a family representative told WFAA.

She moved to the United States about five years ago to pursue her master’s degree, Kolla said. She graduated with that degree from Eastern Michigan University in 2020.

“We were deeply saddened to learn this morning that an Eastern Michigan University graduate, Aishwarya Thatikonda, was among those killed in Saturday’s shooting at a mall outside of Dallas, Texas,” the university said in a statement. “Aishwarya graduated from Eastern in Dec. 2020 with a Master of Science in construction management.”

“As the nation has to once again grapple with a senseless act of gun violence, we share our condolences with Aishwarya’s family and friends,” the school added. “She will forever be remembered as a strong Eastern Michigan University Eagle.”

Thatikonda lived in McKinney, but her family is mourning her loss from their home in India.

The family plans to have her body sent to India, Kolla said.

CNN has reached out to the consulate general of India in Houston for more information.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Jillian Sykes, Keith Allen, Jason Kravarik, Sara Smart, Michelle Watson and Justin Lear contributed to this report.

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