As 5-year-old Sutherland Springs shooting victim Ryland Ward fights for his life in the hospital, his relatives mourn the rest of his family.
Ryland’s mother Joann Ward and his sisters Brooke Ward, 5, and Emily Garza, 7, were identified as three of the 26 people killed Sunday by a mass shooter in a Texas church. Their 9-year-old sister Rihanna Garza just barely avoided injury when her glasses were shot from her face, reported The Daily Mail.
Leslie Ward, Ryland’s aunt, described to the New York Daily News her terror upon finding Ryland barely clinging to life in the church pews.
“I found my nephew in the front, in pain,” she said.
“It was bad. There was just dead bodies everywhere. It wasn’t what I wanted to see, but at the time, I wasn’t worried about it. I was worried about finding my family.”
According to The Dallas Morning News, Michael Ward — Ryland’s uncle — shared that his brother Chris Ward ran from the family home without putting on shoes when he heard reports of the shooting.
“He was pissed at me. I said, ‘I’m not lying to you, Chris, they’re all shot,” Michael said.
Ryland’s father Chris Ward was initially misidentified by the media as the gunman. According to his brother, it was the last thing on his mind — finding his family was all he could think of.
Michael Ward implied to BuzzFeed News that the number of young casualties was partially due to the location of the children.
“The kids were all in the back,” he said, “because they had just come in from Sunday School. All of ‘em in the back,” he said.
Ryland is reportedly in stable condition, but the family doesn’t know how well he might recover. He underwent surgery for four gunshot wounds to his groin, arm and stomach.
“They got him all cut open, from the gunshots,” Michael Ward said on Sunday. “I don’t think he’s going to make it.” Ryland was declared stable on Sunday night.
Several of Ryland’s relatives are regular churchgoers who had stayed home from church for various reasons, a fact that they found to be both heartbreaking and a blessing.
“We were going to go to church, me and McKinley,” said Lupe Ragalado, Leslie Ward’s mother, according to the Dallas Morning News. “I guess God said, ‘Don’t go.'”
Ryland’s cousin McKinley is glad she didn’t go to church, BuzzFeed reported. “But I’m scared that something else bad is going to happen,” she said.
Like the rest of her family, she fears the the possibility of losing another cousin.
“Ryland is the only one left.”