6-Year-Old Boy Killed in Garlic Festival Shooting Was 'Kind, Happy' and 'Joyful'

Stephen Romero was one of three people who died after a shooter opened fire Sunday at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California

The 6-year-old boy killed Sunday along with two others in the shooting at a California festival had recently graduated from kindergarten, looked excitedly ahead to first grade, and was “joyful,” in the words of his father.

Family members identified the victim as Stephen Romero, who was at the Gilroy Garlic Festival with his mother, reports San Francisco TV station KRON.

Stephen, his mother and maternal grandmother had been playing in the bounce house when all three were shot as the gunman opened fire, Romero’s father Alberto Romero told the Mercury News.

The boy was shot in the back, said his father. The boy’s mother was hit in the stomach and hand, and her mother was struck in the leg.

Stephen Romero
Stephen Romero.

Learning the details in a panicked call from his wife, “I couldn’t believe what was happening, that what she was saying was a lie, that maybe I was dreaming,” said Alberto Romero, a 33-year-old electrician, according to the newspaper.

When the father raced to St. Louise Hospital in Gilroy to look for his son, he heard from hospital staff that Stephen was in critical condition.

“They said they were working on him,” Romero said, “and five minutes later they told me he was dead.”

Of his son, he said: “He was joyful, always wanted to play, always positive.”

Gilroy Garlic festival shooting
Festivalgoers leave Christmas Hill Park after a deadly shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, in Gilroy, California. Noah Berger/AP/Shutterstock

Stephen’s paternal grandmother, Maribel Romero, described Stephen as a “loving boy,” she told ABC7 News.

She said he was “always kind, happy and, you know, playful.”

“It has to be someone really sick,” she said of the shooter. “Because shooting a kid … it’s a family event. 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.”

Police said the suspect, who was using an AK-47 type rifle and shooting at random, was fatally shot by officers less than a minute after the attack began.

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In addition to those who died — which included a 13-year-old girl and a man in his 20, neither of whom were immediately named by authorities — 12 others were injured in the shooting that began around 5:41 p.m. local time at the annual three-day festival, Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said in a pair of news conferences on Sunday night and Monday.

Eyewitnesses had reported a possible second suspect as well, he said.

“We don’t know whether that suspect was engaged in any shooting or whether they might have been in a support role for the person we accounted for,” Smithee said on Sunday night.

A motive was not immediately clear, said Smithee.

Gilroy is a city of about 50,000 people about 20 miles south of San Jose. It is known as the “Garlic Capital of the World,” the Associated Press reports.

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