GILROY, Calif. — The shooting death of 6-year-old Stephen Romero at a popular festival in Northern California stunned his family and neighbors.
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 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.”
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 was among the three people killed Sunday evening when a gunman sneaked into the festival and began firing. 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.
Officers engaged the suspect within one minute, Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said, and the suspect was shot and killed.
‘We need to know … there’s justice’
The boy’s mother was shot in the hand and in the stomach and is expected to survive, KRON reported.
“I just wish that they get the people who did it,” Maribel Romero said. “We need to know that they got this person and that there’s justice.”
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.