The mass shooting at a popular food festival in Northern California claimed the lives of three young people Sunday, including two children.
Six-year-old Stephen Romero, 13-year-old Keyla Salazar and Trevor Irby, a 2017 college graduate, were killed Sunday when a gunman sneaked into the Gilroy Garlic Festival and began firing. Police killed the shooter.
A family in disbelief
Stephen’s father, Alberto Romero, told CNN affiliate the San Jose Mercury News newspaper that he was at home when his wife called to say she, her mother and their son had been shot at the annual festival.
“I couldn’t believe what was happening, that what she was saying was a lie, maybe I was dreaming,” he said.
The dad went to a hospital to see his son.
“They told me he was in critical condition and that they were working on him,” he said. “Five minutes later they told me he was dead.”
When paternal grandmother Maribel Romero found out the boy had been shot, she went from hospital to hospital looking for him. Stephen was a happy kid, she said.
“This is really hard, there’s no words to describe (it),” she told CNN affiliate KRON of her grandson’s death. “I don’t think this is fair.”
Stephen’s mother was shot in the hand and in the stomach and is expected to survive, KRON reported.
Gilroy City Council member Fred M. Tovar told CNN early Monday he was saddened by the news of the child’s death.
“I pray that God will grant his family strength. My most sincere condolences. I will keep your family close in my thoughts and prayers in the coming weeks as you are going through the process of grieving,” he said in a statement.
Stephen’s cousin, Joshua Guicho, 16, said in a tearful, halting voice that gun violence “was not even a thought” in his family’s head when they attended the festival.
Guicho told CNN’s David Waterfall and Mike Love that while his young cousin died in the shooting, “luckily his mother didn’t. She’s still strong and so is Stephen’s grandmother.”
“Stephen’s mother tried so hard to protect her child from that gun, the gunning situation at the garlic festival,” said Guicho. “This isn’t right. This has happened multiple times, and I never thought in my whole life it would happen to my family.”
The big sister
Keyla Salazar would have turned 14 next week, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
She had spent the morning of the festival cleaning her home in San Jose and doing chores to convince her parents to buy her a golden retriever puppy, the San Francisco Chronicle article said.
Keyla had two little sisters and was excited to share the puppy with her middle sister.
Both Keyla and her stepfather were shot at the festival Sunday and were separated from her mother and sisters in the ensuing chaos, the San Francisco Chronicle said.
Friends and family frantically searched for her, posting on social media that no one could find her, according to the newspaper.
Her stepfather was found at Stanford Hospital but Keyla hadn’t made it.
Family friend Amy Bellido told the San Francisco Chronicle the family searched hospital by hospital for the girl, only to receive a call early Monday morning saying Keyla was “being well taken care of at the coroner’s.”
The Santa Clara County Office of the Medical Examiner-Coroner identified Keyla as one of the victims in the shooting Monday.
Bellido told the newspaper Keyla was gentle, sweet and close to her family, always looking out for her sisters.
Now, her family is planning to honor her last wish and get her little sisters the puppy she wanted, Bellido told the paper.
‘He was my boy’
Trevor Irby, 25, had recently moved from Romulus in central New York to California to be with his fiancée, his grandmother Juanita Walborn told CNN affiliate WSYR.
Irby and his fiancée were attending the Garlic Festival in Gilroy when shots rang out.
Walborn told WSYR that they were close. “He was my boy,” the grieving grandmother recalled through tears. “Whenever he called, he’d always say,’ I love you grandma,’ and then I’d say, ‘I love you Trevor.’”
She said Irby was friends with everyone, even people he barely knew, WSYR reports. “Everybody was his friend. I don’t care if he met them two days ago, they’d become his friend. That’s how, you know, loveable he was,” Walborn told the affiliate.
His mother is now in California dealing with the fallout from the deadly shooting that took her son’s life.
Irby graduated from Keuka College in New York with a degree in biology, the college said in a statement.
“Our hearts go out to Trevor’s family and loved ones,” said Amy Storey, the college’s president. “We are shocked that this latest episode of senseless gun violence resulted in the loss of one of our recent graduates—graduates in whom we place so much hope because of their potential to create a brighter tomorrow.”
Twelve others were injured at what was supposed to be a family-friendly event.
About 100,000 people attend the decades-old festival each year, previous records show.
And collectively, the event has helped raise “millions of dollars for local schools, charities and nonprofit organizations,” the festival’s website says.