First-grade teacher Victoria Soto died putting herself between her students and the rampaging gunman as he sprayed bullets inside Sandy Hook Elementary School, her cousin told ABC News.
"The family was informed that she was trying to shield, get her children into a closet and protect them from harm, and by doing that put herself between the children and the gunman, and that's when she was tragically shot and killed," Jim Wiltsie said.
The Hartford Courant reported that Soto's classroom was next to where the shooting began at the Newtown, Conn. school. She is believed to have hidden 15 or 16 students, possibly in the closet or in a class bathroom, before the shooter, identified as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, entered the room.
Wiltsie said Soto's "life dream was to be a teacher, and her instincts kicked in" when "there was harm coming towards her students."
"It brings peace to know that Vicki was doing what she loved, protecting the children and in our eyes, she's a hero," Wiltsie said. "She lost her life doing what she loved. I don't think she would have it any other way. She loved kids, her goal in life was to be a teacher and to mold young minds and that's what she achieved and unfortunately lost her life protecting those children."