A fun-filled day at a northern California food festival turned tragic. A gunman opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival on Sunday, claiming the lives of 6-year-old Stephen Romero, 13-year-old Keyla Salazar, and Trevor Irby, who was in his 20s, according to authorities.
“My son had his whole life to live and he was only six. That’s all I can say,” his father, Alberto Romero, told NBC Bay Area on Sunday evening. The youngest victim just celebrated his sixth birthday at Legoland in California last month and was weeks shy of entering first grade.
Romero, who was home with his 9-year-old daughter recalls receiving a call from his wife, Barbara Aquirre. “They shot my son,” he remembers her saying, and that she was also wounded alongside his mother-in-law Barbara Velasquez Aquirre. He immediately rushed to St. Louise Hospital in Gilroy.
“They told me he was in critical condition, that they were working on him,” Romero said, according to CNN. “Five minutes later they told me he was dead.”
His wife had been taken and placed in a medically induced coma at Valley Medical Center in San Jose. Her mother is also hospitalized there. Maribel Romero, Stephen’s grandmother, described the youngest victim as a happy child. “This is really hard, there’s no words to describe,” she told KRON-TV. “I don’t think this is fair.”
The suspect, who was carrying an assault-type rifle and snuck into one of the largest food festivals in the country, was shot and killed within a minute of the shooting.
HE HAS A NAME: 6 year old Stephen Romero was shot and killed at the Gilroy Garlic Festival on Sunday.
My he rest in peace and may we all fight like hell to end gun violence in America. pic.twitter.com/Czw7YjWdkF
— Michael Skolnik (@MichaelSkolnik) July 29, 2019
In a press conference Monday, Gilroy police chief Scot Smithee commended the swift work of officers present at the packed festival, noting the shooting “could have gone so much worse, so fast.” Smithee held back tears, later sharing, “any time a life is lost, it’s a tragedy, but when it’s young people, it’s even worse.”
Fred Tovar, Gilroy City Councilmen, expressed his condolences to the Romero family. “I pray that God will grant his family strength,” he said in a statement. “I will keep your family close in my thoughts and prayers in the coming weeks as you are going through the process of grieving.”