By Sneha Dey, The Texas Tribune, May 8, 2023
What was supposed to be a sunny Saturday afternoon of shopping for hundreds of North Texans at the Allen Premium Outlets devolved into terror when a gunman opened fire, killing eight people and injuring seven others.
A 6-year-old boy at the mall to get his birthday present survived — but his parents and 3-year-old brother did not.
An elementary school lost a second grader and fourth grader, two sisters whose seats will remain empty for the rest of the school year. One of the victims was an engineer, who had made a home in Frisco thousands of miles away from her family in India.
The shooter’s ties to white supremacist groups are being investigated but law enforcement have yet to disclose a possible motive in the attack.
Half of the victims were Asian American. The shooting also occurred in Collin County, which has a fast-growing Asian American community that makes up close to 20% of the county’s population.
“It’s always devastating to see senseless gun violence in our state,” said Lily Trieu, executive director of Asian Texans for Justice. “And for this senseless attack to take lives of Asian American people especially in May, during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, is particularly saddening. This is a month where we should be celebrating our culture and heritage, but now we’re mourning the lives of those lost.”
Trieu and other advocates such as Chanda Parbhoo, founder of South Asian Americans for Voter Education + Engagement + Empowerment, are calling for a thorough investigation to help alleviate the community’s concerns, especially following the rise over the past few years of anti-Asian harassment and violence.
The names of the victims were shared by authorities on Monday: Aishwarya Thatikonda, 26; Daniela Mendoza, 11; Sofia Mendoza, 8; Kyu Cho, 37; Cindy Cho, 35; James Cho, 3; Christian LaCour, 23; and Elio Cumana-Rivas, 32.
Outside the outlet mall, Allen residents turned a Texas flag into a makeshift cross to memorialize the eight victims. They put up a sign with the message “Pray for Allen TX.” They’ve left bouquets of flowers and stuffed animals.
Here’s what we know so far about some of the victims:
Aishwarya Thatikonda, 26
Thatikonda moved from India to the U.S. five years ago to finish her studies. She got her masters in construction management from Eastern Michigan University in 2020, and had been working as a project engineer at Perfect General Contractors in Frisco, according to India Express.
Thatikonda was supposed to celebrate her birthday on May 18, the company’s owner, Srinivas Chaluvadi, told The Dallas Morning News.
She was at the mall with a friend on Saturday. Family members told India Express she had told them about her plans to go to the mall, and then couldn’t be reached after the shooting.
Her family lives near Hyderabad, India, where her father works as a district judge. Ashok Kolla, treasurer of the Telugu Association of North America, said he was working with her family to send her body back home.
Daniela Mendoza, 11; Sofia Mendoza, 8
Yellow was Daniela and Sofia’s favorite color. The sisters took cheerleading and tumbling classes at Wylie Elite, the gym said in a social media post.
Daniela was in fourth grade, and Sofia was in second grade at Cox Elementary in Sachse.
Krista Wilson, the school’s principal, described the two as “rays of sunshine.” She said Daniela and Sofia were “the kindest, most thoughtful students with smiles that could light up any room.”
“We love your babies, we love them so much,” Wylie ISD Superintendent David Vinson said in a statement to the community. “Our love for our kiddos and each other will get us through this. Daniela and Sofia will not be forgotten.”
Cindy Cho, 35; Kyu Cho, 37; James Cho, 3
Cindy and Kyu had just celebrated their son William’s sixth birthday. They brought him, along with their 3-year-old, James, to the outlet mall on Saturday to swap out clothes, according to a GoFundMe page for the family.
“Cindy, Kyu and three year old James were amongst those victims that tragically lost their lives and the family is in deep mourning,” a GoFundMe page for the family reads. “After being released from the ICU, their six year old son William is the only surviving [family] member of this horrific event.”
Ryan Noel Reyes, Cindy’s dental school classmate, took to Facebook to remember the Cho family, saying “we need more good people in the world like Cindy and her family.”
“This one is absolutely soul crushing. Cindy was awesome and one of the nicest people you’d have ever met,” Reyes said. “Give your loved ones a hug and tell them you love them, miss them, wish them a good day, etc. Life is way too short already, and sometimes unnecessarily shorter.”
Bernadette Yllana Gerace remembered Kyu Cho as a student at Richardson North Junior High School in Richardson. One of her very first students, Kyu was quiet, kind and respectful, Gerace said.
Christian LaCour, 23
Christian LaCour had been on the job on Saturday at the mall, working as a security guard.
“He was such a beautiful soul … with goals for his future,” Sandra Montgomery, LaCour’s grandmother, wrote on Facebook. “I was so proud of him and so glad I got to see him 2 weeks ago.”
LaCour grew up in Farmersville and had graduated from Farmersville High School. The school district remembered him as a kind and dedicated student.
“Christian was known as a genuinely kind person. He was a dedicated student who enjoyed learning and asking thought-provoking questions,” the district said in a statement on Facebook. “Christian was a wonderful friend and a good student who fellow students and FISD staff members loved.”
Alex Nguyen contributed to this report.
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Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.