DALLAS (AP) — The people killed by a gunman at a mall near Dallas over the weekend include two elementary-age sisters, a couple and their child, a young engineer and a security guard who worked there, and they represented a multicultural cross-section of the area’s increasingly diverse suburbs.
Cox Elementary School students Daniela and Sofia Mendoza, grades four and two, were among those slain Saturday at Allen Premium Outlets, according to officials in the Wylie Independent School District. They were remembered as “the kindest, most thoughtful students with smiles that could light up any room,” Principal Krista Wilson said in a letter to parents.
Also killed at the outdoor shopping center were three members of a Korean American family: a couple and one of their sons. Another son was wounded and was still hospitalized, said Myoung-Joon Kim, head of mission at the Consulate of the Republic of Korea in Dallas. The parents were identified by the Texas Department of Public Safety as Kyu Song Cho, 37, and Cindy Cho, 35.
Andria Gaither, assistant manger at the mall’s Tommy Hilfiger, said she was devastated to learn the day after running for her life when shots rang out that one of the dead was Christian LaCour, a security guard who previously worked at the clothing store and often stopped in to chat.
Just a few nights earlier, she had called LaCour when a customer walked in after hours. He came and asked the man to leave, and then offered a security escort to her and two teenage employees.
“He wanted us to feel safe,” Gaither said.
“I’m just in shock,” she added. “He was very young, very sweet, came in all the time to visit with us.”
Also killed was Aishwarya Thatikonda, 26, who was from India, held a graduate degree in construction management and worked as a civil engineer at a the Dallas-area firm Perfect General Contractors.
She was “always prepared to give her very best,” company founder Srinivas Chaluvadi said via email.
He said her parents live in Hyderabad, India, where her father is a judge.
“She came to the United States with a dream to make a career, build a family, own a home and live forever in Dallas,” Chaluvadi said.
Chaluvadi said Thatikonda would have turned 27 next week and she had become like family: “She attended birthday parties at my home, we celebrated festivals together and we had family dinners.”
Ashok Kolla, treasurer of the Telugu Association of North America, told The Dallas Morning News that he didn’t know Thatikonda, but the association often helps families and he is working to send her body back home.
DPS has identified the eighth victim as Elio Cumana-Rivas, 32.
Authorities are still trying to piece together what led to the attack, which ended when the suspected gunman — 33-year-old Mauricio Garcia — was fatally shot by police.
Federal officials are looking into whether Garcia expressed an interest in white supremacist ideology, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press. The official cautioned that the investigation is in its early stages.
Federal agents have been reviewing social media accounts they believe Garcia used, as well as posts that expressed interest in white supremacist and neo-Nazi views, said the official, who could not discuss details of the investigation publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
Alvarez reported from Los Angeles and Reynolds from Louisville, Kentucky. Associated Press writer Michael Balsamo in Washington contributed.