Father mourns loss of 6-year-old killed by gunman at Gilroy Garlic Festival; man’s wife and mother also shot

GILROY, California - Stephen Romero, 6, was among those killed during the shooting in Gilroy, California.

Stephen's father, Alberto Romero, told the Mercury News newspaper that he was at home when his wife called to say she, her mother their son had been shot at the annual Gilroy Garlic 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."

"My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who (lost) their lives, and those recovering in the hospital. I am deeply saddened by the news of Stephen Romero. 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 your process of grieving," Gilroy City Councilmember Fred Tovar. said in a statement on Sunday night.

Stephen's grandmother, Maribel Romero, told CNN affiliate KGO-TV that Stephen had already been declared dead by the time she reached the hospital.

"I just hope there is justice and they catch the last person or the other person and that there's justice. I want justice for my grandson," Romero told KGO-TV.

Romero said her daughter-in-law and Stephen's other grandmother were also shot and hospitalized.

A gunman cut through a fence to avoid security and opened fire at Northern California's popular Gilroy Garlic Festival, killing three and wounding at least 15 before police fatally shot him as terrified people and performers ran for cover.

Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said the gunman was armed with a rifle and sneaked in through a fence that borders a parking lot next to a creek. He appeared to randomly target people when he opened fire just after 5:30 p.m. Sunday, the conclusion of the three-day festival that attracts more than 100,000 people to the city known as the "Garlic Capital of the World."

Police responded within a minute, engaged the suspect and killed him, Smithee said.

Some witnesses reported a second suspect, Smithee said, but it was unclear whether that person was armed or simply provided assistance. A manhunt continued late into the night.

Smithee called the scene at the festival a "nightmare you hope you never have to live."

The wounded were taken to multiple hospitals, and their conditions ranged from fair to critical, with some in surgery Sunday night. At least five were treated and released.

Security is tight — festival-goers pass through metal detectors and their bags are searched.

On Sunday, the band TinMan was starting an encore with the song "We're an American Band" when the shooting started.

Singer Jack van Breen said he saw a man wearing a green shirt and grayish handkerchief around his neck fire into the food area with what looked like an assault rifle. Van Breen and other members of the band dove under the stage.

Van Breen, from nearby Santa Clara, said he heard someone shout: "Why are you doing this?" and the reply: "Because I'm really angry."

Their audience began screaming and running, and the five members of TinMan and others dove under the stage.

Van Breen's bandmate, Vlad Malinovsky of Walnut Creek, California, said he heard a lot of shots and then it stopped. Later, law enforcement came by and told the band members and others hiding with them to come out with their hands up.

Taylor Jackson was working at a booth drawing caricatures of festival-goers when she heard gunfire, saw people running and "ran for the hills." She said her boss ran in the opposite direction. Several hours later, Jackson was at a reunification center trying to get information on her whereabouts.

Donna Carlson of Reno, Nevada, was helping a friend at a jewelry booth when "all of a sudden it was pop, pop, pop. And I said, 'I sure hope that's fireworks.'" She got on her hands and knees and hid behind a table until police told her it was safe to leave.

In a tweet, California Gov. Gavin Newsom called the bloodshed "nothing short of horrific" and expressed appreciation for the police response. President Donald Trump tweeted before authorities confirmed the gunman was dead and urged people to "be careful and safe!"

Video posted to social media showed people running in terror as shots rang out.

Evenny Reyes of Gilroy, 13, told the Mercury News that she spent the day at the festival with her friends and relatives.

"We were just leaving and we saw a guy with a bandanna wrapped around his leg because he got shot. And there were people on the ground, crying," Reyes said. "There was a little kid hurt on the ground. People were throwing tables and cutting fences to get out."

Reyes said that she didn't run at first because the gunshots sounded like fireworks.

"It started going for five minutes, maybe three. It was like the movies — everyone was crying, people were screaming," she said.

Smithee said the festival is a source of pride for the community and that thousands donate their time to make it a success.

"It's incredibly sad and disheartening that an event that does so much good for our community has to suffer from a tragedy like this," he said.

Continuing coverage here.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.