Gilroy victim’s uncle: ‘I promised her that I was going to protect her, but I wasn’t there’

Posted at 8:01 AM, Jul 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-31 10:01:35-04

Keyla Salazar was looking forward to her birthday when she was shot and killed at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Northern California.

“We were preparing to have a birthday cake and be able to be with her,” her aunt, Katiuska Pimentel, told CNN. “Now we have to prepare for a funeral.”

Keyla would have turned 14 next week, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. But on Sunday, she became one of three people killed when a 19-year-old opened fire at the family-friendly festival. Twelve others were injured. Police killedthe shooter about a minute after he opened fire, Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said.

California festival shooting victims: a 6-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl and a 2017 college graduate

Keyla’s stepfather was wounded by a stray bullet, Pimentel said.

Her uncle, Giordano Pimentel, said he thinks the family may honor her memory by granting her birthday wish. The animal lover, who already had a guinea pig and a chihuahua, wanted a golden retriever puppy.

‘She didn’t know what danger was’

Days before Keyla was killed, she was with her uncle at Disneyland, he said. She was afraid of the roller coasters, but her uncle told her she had nothing to worry about as long as he was there with her.

“I promised her that I was going to protect her, but I wasn’t there,” Giordano Pimentel said, thinking aboutthe violence his niece faced soon after.

He described her as a pure and beautiful child, who had a great sense of humor but could be nervous and shy. Together, they made YouTube videos, where he said the aspiring animator found her outlet to communicate.

He also said she enjoyed helping others. Pimental said Keyla’s stepfather told him that Keyla was turning to check on her family through the confusion and terror when she was shot.

He says he can’t help but imagine her thoughts as she lay wounded.

“‘Where’s my uncle? Where’s my family? Where’s everyone when I need them?’ And just laying there alone, scared, not knowing anything, because she was so innocent,” he said. “She didn’t know what danger was, she didn’t know anything about that.”

Two others killed

The shooting took two other young lives.

Six-year-old Stephen Romero was at the festival with his mother and grandmother when the gunshots rang out, his father told CNN affiliate the San Jose Mercury News newspaper.

Stephen’s mother called his father to tell him their son had been shot.

“I couldn’t believe what was happening, that what she was saying was a lie, maybe I was dreaming,” he said.

Stephen was in critical condition when his father arrived. Five minutes later, he said, Stephen was gone.

Stephen’s mother was shot in the hand and in the stomach, but is expected to survive.

“Stephen’s mother tried so hard to protect her child from that gun, the gunning situation at the garlic festival,” said Stephen’s cousin, Joshua Guicho, 16. “This isn’t right. This has happened multiple times, and I never thought in my whole life it would happen to my family.”

25-year-old Trevor Irby was at the festival with this fiancée, whom he had recently moved from New York to be with, when the gunfire began.

His grandmother Juanita Walborn described him as a kind and loving man.

“Everybody was his friend. I don’t care if he met them two days ago, they’d become his friend. That’s how, you know, loveable he was,” Walborn told CNN affiliate WSYR.

Irby graduated from Keuka College in New York with a degree in biology, the college said in a statement.