A day after a gunman opened fire on a crowd enjoying the Gilroy Garlic Festival, tributes poured in for the rampage’s youngest victims — Stephen Romero, 6, and Keyla Salazar, 13.
Katiuska Pimental Vargas, a community organizer with San Jose-based nonprofit Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network (SIREN) posted on Facebook that her niece — Salazar — “was not able to make it and died at the scene,” Vargas told San José Spotlight on Sunday night that she was hysterically calling South Bay hospitals searching for her niece, but was given no information. She believed her niece had been shot in the back.
Vargas said in her post on Monday that her family is “devastated and broken and need time to heal and process.” She asked for the community to send “love and positive energy.”
On Sunday night, police say 19-year-old Santino William Legan opened fire using a rifle he’d legally purchased three weeks earlier in Nevada. Three people were killed, including Salazar, Romero and a man in his 20s. At least 15 others were injured.
Police shot and killed Legan and are investigating whether a “potential second suspect” was involved in the plot.
Romero was described by his family as a fun-loving boy with his entire life ahead of him. The boy’s father, Alberto Romero, told the Mercury News that his son was playful and joyful. His cousin is San Jose Councilmember Maya Esparza, who posted the tragic news on Facebook on Monday.
“Heartache and prayers for my cousins who were wounded yesterday and losing my little cousin, only 6 years old,” Esparza posted. “And I’m angry, so angry. This violence has to stop. How do some people have such little regard for life.”
Friends and supporters of both families have set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for funeral expenses and other costs.
“My friend’s 6 year old Steven tragically lost his life at the Gilroy Garlic festival,” family friend Eli Sanchez wrote on the GoFundMe page. “In efforts to aid the Romero family during their time of need we are asking for donations to help with upcoming final resting expenses and any other hardships the family encounters from this loss.”
To help Salazar’s family, click here.
To help Romero’s family, click here.