‘Gilroy Strong:’ Hundreds Gather at Vigil to Honor Victims of Garlic Festival Shooting

GILROY -- A vigil was put together Monday and began 24 hours after gunfire rang out at the Gilroy Garlic Festival.

The community was on the heels of its worst day in memory.

“We cannot let the bastard that did this tear us down,” said Gilroy Mayor Roland Velasco.

Through song, reflection and candlelight hundreds honored the memories of the two children and one young man who died in the mass shooting at Gilroy’s famous festival.

“Our hearts go out to all of you. We love you. God bless and we’ll heal together,” said Gilroy Police Sgt. Jason Smith.

“Just heartbreaking that, unfortunately, no community’s immune to this,” said Noshaba Afzal, who has lived in Gilroy for eight years.

Afzal said in a small community where everyone seems to know everyone else, tragedy does not hit just a few people -- it hits everyone.

“I don’t think you ever get over something like this. You just weave it in, but it helps to know you’re not alone,” she said.

“We just grabbed people that were injured, helped them to our beer trailer and got them in shelter,” said Mark Turner with the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce.

Many who led the vigil were at the festival when the gunfire began. They risked their own lives and exposed themselves to cover those who were hurt.

“There were some scenes yesterday that I’ve never witnessed in my life and hope to never witness again,” Turner said.

As the community paused to remember lives lost and acknowledge their own pain, they made a commitment to recover and rise above hate.

“We are Gilroy strong!”

The Garlic Festival is an event that brings in tens of thousands of people. At the latest press briefing, an FBI special agent said had there not already been a strong security presence there already the casualty count could have been much worse.

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