GILROY (CBS SF) — Wednesday was a day of remembrance and grief for victims and survivors of the 2019 Gilroy Garlic Festival mass shooting as families marked two years since the gunman opened fire on the final day of the festival, killing three young people and injury 17.
A memorial vigil was held for the victims and those impacted by the shooting at 4:45 p.m. Wednesday afternoon at the Gilroy Center for the Arts.READ MORE: Flames Reach Ancient Sequoias; Crews in Pitched Battle to Save Giant Forest Grove
Victims’ family members say two years is simply not enough to heal their wounds. They told KPIX the grief and heartbreak that they carry with them every day is still heavy.
All of the people killed in the shooting were 25 or younger. Lives cut short and stories unfinished.
Keyla Salazar’s family spent the day at her gravesite, remembering her bright smile and big hugs. Flipping through the pages of a binder full of the animations created by the budding artist.
“There’s definitely a lot of grief. A lot of pain and disappointment and frustration that we feel,” said Keyla’s aunt, Katiuska Pimentel-Vargas.
13-year-old Keyla, six-year-old Stephen Romero and 25-year-old Trevor Irby were gunned down on the final day of the festival in 2019.
Keyla’s family said as much as she accomplished in her tragically short 13 years, her family will forever mourn the things she never got a chance to do.
“We will never get to see her growing up. Turning 15. We’ll never see her quinceanera or witness her becoming a young adult,” said her aunt.
Survivors of the shooting joined members of the community, holding a number of public memorials to mark the second anniversary of the shooting.
Earlier in the day, the victims are now suing the manufacturer of the gun the killer used.READ MORE: Woman Fatally Shot, Another Wounded Outside Pittsburg 7-Eleven Store
Century Arms has been named as the latest defendant in the case.
At a press event Wednesday morning, the victims’ lawyer said the company was “negligent and reckless” for manufacturing and selling what he called “a weapon of war” that was used to kill three people and injure 17 others before the shooter turned the gun on himself.
“There is a way to make events safe. You cannot cut corners in the name of profit. At some point the innocent pay the ultimate price,” said shooting victim Wendy Townsend. “I’m the one who has to rock my crying child to sleep. He can tell you in grim detail what happens when the last breath is taken and the blood pours from your wounds.”
The other defendants named in the suit include the Gilroy Garlic Association, the city of Gilroy and the First Alarm Security Company.
The lawyers wouldn’t specify the amount of money they’re seeking. No trial date has been set.
Two years later, many say they struggle still to understand how the gunman, a Gilroy native, could harbor such hatred in his heart.
“We don’t have a protective shield just because it’s happened here once before. It’s not like the chicken pox where you have it and it goes away,” said Gilroy City Councilmember Rebeca Armendariz. “So how can we say that we’re safe? There’s no vaccine for violence.”
At her gravesite, Keyla’s family says they never expected the book of her life to be so short. But they are still proud of how she filled every page with smiles and creativity, kindness and resilience.
The Gilroy Garlic Festival returned this year in modified fashion. It was much smaller with only drive-through meal pick-up available, largely because of the pandemic.MORE NEWS: UPDATE: Outage Number Drops; Thousands in East Bay Still Without Power
But the long shadow of the shooting still hangs over the festival as well.