GILROY (KPIX 5) — Less than 24 hours after the mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, hundreds turned out for two vigils Monday evening to share their pain and their strength.
Community leaders and residents chanted “Gilroy strong!” and many in the crowd vowed to not let the gunman define their town.
Patricia Bentson left early on Sunday. She has been a volunteer at the decades-old festival since the very first one.
“I have a grandson that’s six years old and that really hit close to home – the little Romero boy who passed, so it’s very tragic. We’ve lost our innocence, but Gilroy’s strong,” said Bentson.
They sang, lit candles and held a moment of silence for the three victims: 6-year-old Stephen Romero, 13-year-old Keyla Salazar and 25-year-old Trevor Irby.
“The 25-year-old guy that passed away was right in front of me and there was a lot of blood and it just was very scary,” said Gilroy resident Lori Misa.
The memories from Sunday’s shooting are still raw for Misa.
“I started running and bullets were whizzing past my feet and so I took cover behind a haystack and the shooter was maybe 15 feet from me and he went down,” she added.
At Saint Mary’s Parish in Gilroy, it was standing room only at another vigil for the community.
“This town is so beautiful, we have a lot of love, a lot of strength here. The Gilroy Garlic Festival has always been something you go to, bring your family, bring your friends out of town, I know people from Boston who come here from cross-country,” said Gilroy resident Preston Longaker. “It still doesn’t make sense.”
Gilroy resident Joey Arenas said the shooting won’t stop him from going to the annual festival.
“I’ve been here for basically my whole life in Gilroy. I’ll always show my love for the garlic,” he said.