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‘Gilroy Strong': Garlic Festival Shooting Survivors Among Hundreds at Vigil

The dead included a 6-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl and a 25-year-old college graduate from upstate New York

The small rural community of Gilroy is reeling in the wake of a mass shooting at its annual garlic festival Sunday that killed three people and wounded a dozen others. But hundreds there, including some of those wounded in the attack, still turned out at a vigil Monday night and vowed to remain "Gilroy Strong."

"We cannot let the bastard that did this tear us down," Mayor Roland Velasco declared to cheers from the crowd, where many raised votive candles, long tapers or tea lights.

A sign that hung from the front of the stage read "Gilroy Strong" underneath an American flag covered in two garlic cloves.

Among the survivors at the vigil were Sarah Ordaz, her boyfriend Nick McFarland, and their friend Justin Bates

Bates, despite being grazed by bullets seven times, had managed to carry Ordaz to safety during the shooting. 

Both Bates and McFarland were walking with assistance from crutches at Monday's vigil as a result of their wounds. Bates' mom was also there holding her son close. 

"I saw him cock his gun -- fire the first bullet," Bates said, a bandage visible on his leg. "My heart is grieving for the families that lost loved ones. I can't imagine what they're going through and I'm just happy my family is not going through that." 

Ordaz said she wanted to be there for the victims and let their families know that "they're in my prayers." 

Another survivor, Becky Valdez, recalled helping rescue a 5-year-old girl. 

"I'll never forget her face and I'll never forget the fear of her crying for her mom," she said.

Authorities are still seeking a motive for Sunday's rampage by a 19-year-old  gunman who had posted a white supremacist message on social media and a photo from the festival on Instagram shortly before opening fire with a semi-automatic rifle he'd bought legally in neighboring Nevada.

The dead included 6-year-old Stephen Romero and 13-year-old Keyla Salazar, both from San Jose, and 25-year-old Trever Irby, a college graduate from upstate New York.

Romero's father Alberto spoke tearfully to NBC Bay Area of his child, who would have entered first grade in the fall. 

"No amount of money can ever bring my son back," he said. "I would trade all the money in the world to have him here." 

Romero said it was "just hard for me to believe that he was shot in the back by a grown man."

President Donald Trump earlier condemned what he called the "wicked murderer."

Gov. Gavin Newsom has visited some victims and their families. He cursed as he decried what he said was a refusal by federal lawmakers to control high-powered, high-capacity guns that are more tightly restricted in his state.

Back at the the vigil, a city councilor led residents in a chant of "We are Gilroy strong!"

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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