Mom with dying 6-year-old calls husband from Gilroy Garlic Festival: 'They shot him'

Boy was one of four confirmed fatalities, including a suspect, after a gunman in camouflage attire went on a shooting rampage at the crowded festival

Deadly Shooting at Gilroy Garlic Festival

GILROY, Calif. — Alberto Romero was home in San Jose late Sunday afternoon when he got the panicked call from his wife at the Gilroy Garlic Festival: Someone had shot their 6-year-old son in the back, her in the stomach and hand, and her mother in the leg.

The trio had been playing at the bounce house.

"I couldn't believe what was happening, that what she was saying was a lie, that maybe I was dreaming," said Romero, a 33-year-old electrician who gathered with family members after midnight early Monday at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. He looked stunned as he carried a green balloon into the lobby.

At first, Romero was told to head to St. Louise Hospital in Gilroy to see his son, Stephen. When he arrived, the hospital staff told him the 6-year-old — who had just graduated from kindergarten and was excited to start first grade — was in critical condition.

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

» Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting: 6-year-old boy, 13-year-old girl, man killed; 1 suspect dead

Romero was escorted into his son's hospital room to have a final moment with the boy. "He was joyful, always wanted to play, always positive," he said.

Stephen was one of four confirmed fatalities, including a suspect, Sunday after a gunman in camouflage attire went on a shooting rampage at the crowded festival, apparently firing indiscriminately about 5:30 p.m., just as the festival was nearing its end.

Witnesses say the shooter with an assault-style rifle fired at least 10 or 15 times, paused briefly and began firing again. The shooter was killed by police, authorities say.

Romero had been home with his 9-year-old daughter, staying behind to study for an electrician exam, when his wife frantically called that evening. After the shock of saying goodbye to Stephen at the hospital in Gilroy, he raced the 30 miles to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose.

» Photos: 3 shot, killed at Gilroy Garlic Festival in California; 1 suspect also dead

That's where his wife, Barbara Aquirre, was taken and placed in a medically induced coma, he said. His mother-in-law, Barbara Velasquez Aquirre was also being treated there.

They were among the 15 people injured in the shootings at the world-famous garlic festival.

Joseph Corona, a family friend, arrived at the hospital late Sunday night to embrace Romero and couldn't stop thinking of little Stephen.

"He's a caring loving kid, always had a smile on his face," Corona said.