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'You're never prepared' | Uvalde County Coroner ID'd friend among massacre victims

Uvalde County Justice of the Peace Lalo Diaz, who also serves as coroner, went to high school with Irma Garcia, one of the teachers who was shot to death.

UVALDE, Texas — Uvalde County Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Lalo Diaz can see 21 wooden crosses in a city park from his third-floor office in the county courthouse. They were erected Thursday morning after the deadliest school shooting in Texas history happened in his town.

"It’s not something that’s going to go away easily,” Diaz said.

That's because Diaz has other duties as well.

“I’m the coroner of the county,” he said.

Diaz responds to any death outside of a hospital, nursing home or hospice and was called to Robb Elementary School Tuesday, never expecting what he encountered.

RELATED: Uvalde school mass shooting: What we know about the victims

There were bodies of nearly two dozen people; 19 of them were children.

"Once we got in there, we made an assessment," Diaz said. "And then, we waited for the departments to bring us pictures to try and compare, you know, who they were. Try to ID them the best we could.”

He eventually figured out that 49-year-old teacher Irma Garcia, with whom he went to high school, was among those massacred, most likely trying to protect her kids until the end.

"The only reason I knew it was her ... I saw pictures," Diaz said.

Diaz called in the Bexar County Medical Examiner to help him properly identify all 21 victims and notify their families as quickly as possible. That process included collecting DNA to verify their connection.

RELATED: Uvalde school mass shooting: What we know about the victims

"It breaks my heart," Diaz said. "I have broken down a little bit, and I’m probably going to break down in the future. It’s just one of those things where you’re not prepared for what you just saw.”

Tragically, Irma Garcia's husband, Joe, passed away Thursday due to an apparent heart attack.

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