Valley Native Mourning Loss of Loved Ones in Church Shooting

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SUTHERLAND SPRINGS – A 5-year-old shot four times while at a church with his family on Sunday is struggling to stay alive.

Ryland Ward is currently in critical condition in a San Antonio hospital. His family of six is now a mourning family of three.

His mother and two of his sisters were killed after a suspect opened fire during service.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS learned the little boy’s grandfather is a Rio Grande Valley native.

Edcouch native Bob Lookingbill said his youngest daughter and four of his grandchildren were in the 11 a.m. church service on Sunday.

“My daughter, Joann, she took her two babies and she went to heaven,” he said.

Joann Ward and two of her daughters, 6-year-old Brooke and 8-year-old Emily, were killed.  He said 10-year-old Briana escaped without injuries.

“Her mother pushed her out of the way and she survived,” said the grandfather.

Ryland was shot multiple times and survived.

“Both legs, an arm, bladder, he’s just really, really in bad shape,” said Lookingbill. “I think they – hopefully they saved his arm last night, but he’s got so, so many months of surgeries ahead of him.”

The pride and love the dad and grandpa feels for his lost loved ones was evident.

“They were just sweet as they could be. They had a good mama to raise them, very good mama. Those kids were precious,” he recalled.

The 30-year-old mother worked part-time at the Valero store, located across the street from Sutherland Springs Baptist Church.

Lookingbill said she loved people and animals. He said her daughters were outgoing and silly.

“Emily loved Selena. She would sing Selena. That was her idol,” he said.

Like so many others in the small community, he’s struggling to understand why it happened. He said he knows the girls are in heaven with 23 of their church family.

A company from Victoria is donating caskets for Joann, Brooke and Emily, as well as the other 23 victims. Crime victims assistance programs are helping with other funeral costs and medical assistance.


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