Family mourns 'happy and resilient girl' killed in Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting rampage

Keyla Salazar was one of three people killed on July 28 in Gilroy, California.

August 7, 2019, 3:59 PM

Mourners packed a church in Northern California for the funeral of a 13-year-old girl who was one of three people gunned down at a food festival in one of three shooting rampages that erupted across the country in eight days and left 34 people dead.

Keyla Salazar was remembered by her family as a "happy and resilient girl," who lovingly cared for her dogs "Cinnamon" and "Lucky," her cat "Rosie," her rabbit "Miss Jackson" and her guinea pig "Albert."

"Her tender smile and charismatic personality conquered everyone's heart. Her intelligence, her strength, her tenacity motivated everyone to move forward,” her family said in a statement released by the Archdiocese of San Jose.

Lorena Pimentel de Salazar, center, leaves a funeral for her daughter Keyla Salazar, 13, on Aug. 6, 2019, in San Jose, Calif.
Noah Berger/AP

About 200 people filled Our Lady of Guadalupe church in San Jose Tuesday as a white casket bearing Keyla's body was brought into the sanctuary and covered with handwritten farewell messages, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Keyla's funeral came three days after she would have celebrated her 14th birthday.

Her family said Keyla had endured being bullied, but "never lost her joy or happiness for life."

“She never gave up and continued to strive to achieve her academic goals. She was a girl who loved science and technology creating ingenious videos, making everyone laugh,” her family's statement read, adding that Keyla had dreamed of pursuing a career in animation.

Keyla and two others, including a 6-year-old boy, were killed just days before back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, left a combined 31 people dead and more than 50 injured.

Mourners embrace before the start of funeral services for 13-year-old Keyla Salazar at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church on August 06, 2019, in San Jose, Calif.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

She was killed on June 28 while attending the Gilroy Garlic Festival when 19-year-old Santino William Legan allegedly opened fire on festival-goers with an AK-47-style rifle.

Two other people slain in the rampage were identified as 6-year-old Stephen Romero and 25-year-old Trevor Irby. Eleven people were wounded in the massacre.

Police responded to the shooting in minutes and fatally shot Legan during a gun battle, officials said.

Investigators are still searching for a motive in the Gilroy shooting.

Just hours after Keyla's funeral, officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said they will open a domestic terrorism investigation into the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting.

During a news conference Tuesday evening, John Bennett, special agent in charge of the FBI's San Francisco field office, said investigators uncovered evidence that Legan intended to target churches, religious groups, political parties and other organizations nationwide.

Mourners write on Keyla Salazar's casket during the 13-year-old's funeral on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019, in San Jose, Calif.
Noah Berger/AP

"The FBI and the Gilroy Police Department have uncovered a list of organizations on the suspect's digital media, that may have been potential targets of violence," Bennett said.

The suspect legally purchased the rifle used in the attack on July 9 at a gun shop in Fallon, Nevada, but illegally brought it into California, where such guns are banned, officials said.

Legan allegedly had a 75-round drum magazine -- with 71 rounds left in the drum -- and two 40-round magazines on his body when he was killed, said Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee.

In a statement released to ABC station KGO-TV in San Francisco, Legan's family said they are "deeply shocked and horrified by the actions of our son."

"To the families of Stephen Romero, Keyla Salazar, Trevor Irby, and to the injured that survived this tragedy, we cannot begin to describe our despair at his actions," the family's statement reads. "It is impossible to reconcile this with the son we thought we knew."