CARROLLTON, Texas — Traditional Korean three-tiered flower wreaths lined the halls Thursday evening at New Song Church outside of Dallas, where mourners gathered at a funeral for the Chos — remembered as family-oriented pillars in their community.
Family and friends filled two rooms at the church to honor Kyu Song Cho, 37, Cindy Cho, 35, and their 3-year-old son, James, killed last weekend in a mass shooting at an outlet mall in Allen, Texas. Six-year-old son, William, survived the shooting.
The tearful service came less than a week after a gunman opened fire at Allen Premium Outlets, about 25 miles north of Dallas, killing eight people and injuring a half-dozen more.
“The Cindy I remember remains as one of the sweetest, most caring, and positive people I know,” said David Kim, who was part of a Bible study and fellowship group with the family. “James was a bright light for all of us … If his dad won a smile competition with a big smile, and his mother won with the sweetest, James could win it with his eyes.”
The killing of the couple and their youngest son has led to an outpouring of grief from their church community and across the nation. Kyu was a lawyer and Cindy was a dentist. Their surviving son is no longer being treated at a local hospital, according to NBC station KXAS, but it is unclear whether he’s been sent home or to another facility.
Witnesses said Cindy died trying to shield William from the gunfire, KXAS reported.
Cindy’s father, Changho Kang, spoke through tears at Thursday’s service as he remembered his daughter. “You strived for many things in life,” he said through an NBC News translation. “I loved you so much.”
He also addressed his grandson. “You were affectionate with me, your grandpa. My grandchild … your brother loves you,” he said. “In heaven, we’ll meet again. I love you all, my children.”
Kyu’s father, Won Hwan Cho, spoke soon after, remembering his son and daughter-in-law. “My children, I got the greatest gift.”
He also said of his surviving grandson, “I request a prayer from all of you that he live a healthy life, to be bright, to love everyone, and to be loved.”
Allen police identified the shooter as Mauricio Garcia. He was killed Saturday by a police officer who happened to be at the mall. In the days following the shooting, authorities revealed that Garcia was armed with an “AR-15 style assault weapon,” a handgun and was wearing a tactical vest.
Law enforcement officials said they believed Garcia to be a neo-Nazi sympathizer. A preliminary review of what is believed to be the shooter’s social media accounts reveal hundreds of posts related to violent neo-Nazi and white supremacist materials.
The mall massacre was the second deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. this year and the second in Texas in a little over a week.
New Song church leader Rev. Peter Hyun decried the shootings, saying that he was filled with “uncontrollable rage and overwhelming pain” when he learned that the three members of the Cho family had been killed. Hyun said that he’s long been a gun control advocate, but he never imagined a mass shooting would hit so close to home.
“I’ve done many funeral services but this is by far the most difficult funeral service. I’m a person who’s very resentful of the continued shootings in the United States,” Hyun said. “I still don’t know why brother Kyu Cho, sister Cindy, and James had to experience this tragedy.”