9-year-old says teacher played dead after being shot in Uvalde classroom

Daniel Garza survived the massacre after hiding under a table in his classroom.

May 30, 2022, 9:14 AM

When gunfire rang out at Robb Elementary School Tuesday, 9-year-old Daniel Garza said his teacher, Elsa Avila, ran to the door to lock their classroom, which was near the rooms where 19 students and two teachers were killed.

Avila was shot through the glass and dropped to the floor, Daniel told ABC News, but she still told her students to stay quiet and said she was playing dead. A student in the class was also injured when the gunman shot through the door.

Daniel said he hid under a table next to a wall with some classmates. Daniel and his terrified peers stayed quiet, listening to the gunshots and the gunman banging on the neighboring door.

PHOTO: Daniel Garza, 9, speaks about surviving the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.
Daniel Garza, 9, speaks about surviving the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.
ABC News

"I personally can’t thank my son's teacher enough," Daniel's mother, Briana Ruiz, told ABC News. "I think what she did saved all of their lives."

Though Daniel survived, he lost his beloved cousin, Ellie Garcia, who was in a neighboring classroom and among the 19 children slain in the massacre.

PHOTO: Ellie Garcia is seen here in this undated file photo.
Ellie Garcia is seen here in this undated file photo.
Siria Arizmendi/AP

"I was worried a lot for her because I didn’t hear any screaming from the class," he said.

Although her son is enduring mental trauma from the massacre, Ruiz said the 9-year-old insisted on speaking to journalists to take the focus off the gunman and shine it on the victims.

"That’s why I agreed to let him do this. If he feels like it’s going to help him, I’m OK with it, because I do want him to recover," she said.

PHOTO: Crosses with the names of victims of a school shooting, are pictured at a memorial outside Robb Elementary school, after a gunman killed nineteen children and two teachers, in Uvalde, U.S. May 26, 2022.
Crosses with the names of victims of a school shooting, are pictured at a memorial outside Robb Elementary school, after a gunman killed nineteen children and two teachers, in Uvalde, U.S. May 26, 2022.
Marco Bello/Reuters

Since the shooting, Ruiz said her son hasn't wanted to go into his bedroom and has stopped playing video games.

"When I ask him why he doesn’t want to play, he says, 'I don’t want to hear gun shots.' We’re not watching cable -- any mention of shooting does trigger him," she said. "That’s something they’re gonna have to live with forever and it’s going to be hard."

Ruiz said the gunman was a former student of hers, when she was a teaching assistant.

As for Daniel's feelings about the gunman: "I feel mad at him. I play football with a lot of those guys and they didn’t make it out."

ABC News' Marcus Moore contributed to this report.

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