Joann Ward loved children, but none more than her four kids: Rihanna, Emily, Brooke and Ryland. She died shielding them from gunfire. When Devin Patrick Kelley walked into the First Baptist Church here and began killing people with his military-style rifle, Joann Ward pushed Rihanna Ward, 9, to the floor. Witnesses who survived the shooting said they saw Joann’s body on top of her kids, according to Joann’s niece Haley Martinez.

Rihanna told Joann’s friend Vonda Greek Smith that she “didn’t get shot because I was hiding, and Momma covered Emily, Ryland and Brooke,” according to Smith’s Facebook post. “Knowing Joann, that’s something she would do,” Martinez said.

Emily Rainn Garcia, 7, and Brooke Ward, 5, were both killed Sunday. Ryland Ward, 5, remained in critical condition Monday night after being shot four times, according to Joann’s brother-in-law, Phillip Ward.

The family has set up a GoFundMe account to cover funeral costs as well as future needs for both Ryland and Rihanna.


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