Father of 6-year-old boy killed at Gilroy Garlic Festival: 'My son had his whole life to live'

The father of a 6-year-old boy who was gunned down during Sunday's mass shooting at a California food festival remembered his son as a "joyful," "positive child" who "always wanted to play."

Alberto Romero, a 33-year-old electrician, told the San Jose Mercury News he received a phone call from his panicked wife, Barbara Aquirre, Sunday afternoon informing him that she, their son, Stephen, and the boy's grandmother, Barbara Velasquez Aquirre, had all been shot while playing at a bounce house at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. 

"I couldn’t believe what was happening, that what she was saying was a lie, that maybe I was dreaming," Romero told the paper.

Romero rushed to St. Louise Hospital in Gilroy to see his family, where he was informed that Stephen, who had just graduated from kindergarten, was in critical condition. 

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

The boy's mother, who had to be placed in a medically induced coma, and grandmother both remain hospitalized. 

A total of three people, including 6-year-old Stephen, were shot and killed, with at least 12 more injured in the Sunday massacre, according to authorities.

Police first responded to reports of an active shooter at Gilroy's Christmas Hill Park at around 5:40 p.m. PT, Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee told NBC Bay Area.

The suspect, who allegedly sneaked into the festival by using "some sort of tool" to cut through a fence and bypass event security, was quickly engaged by authorities and killed within a minute. He was later identified as 19-year-old Santino William Legan, CBS News reports.

Police are still investigating claims from multiple eyewitnesses who said the shooter may have had an accomplice.

Photos from the scene: 

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Mass shooting at Gilroy Garlic Festival
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Mass shooting at Gilroy Garlic Festival
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A young couple embrace at a parking lot after a shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, Calif., Sunday, July 28, 2019. Several people were hospitalized Sunday after the shooting at the annual food festival in Northern California, a hospital spokeswoman said. (AP Photo/Thomas Mendoza)
Police work a scene after a deadly shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, Calif., Sunday, July 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Police stay focused on a target after a deadly shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, Calif., Sunday, July 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Gilroy Garlic festival volunteer Denise Buessing, left, embraces fellow volunteer Marsha Struzik at a reunification center in a parking lot at Gavilan College following a deadly shooting at the annual food festival in Gilroy, Calif., Sunday, July 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)
Festival attendees are being transported on a bus, after a shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, at the reunification center at the Gavilan College in Gilroy, Calif., Sunday, July 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)
Ana Lilia Cano, left, with daughter Paulina Perez, and Gildardo Leyva, right, wait for relatives at a reunification center at Gavilan College following a shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, in Gilroy, Calif., Sunday, July 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)
Ana Lilia Cano, left, with daughter Paulina Perez, and Gildardo Leyva, right, wait for relatives at a reunification center at Gavilan College following a shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, in Gilroy, Calif., Sunday, July 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)
Police officers dressed in SWAT gear stand guard at the first aid center at Gilroy High School following a shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, Calif., on Sunday, July 28, 2019. (AP Photo/David Royal)
Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee speaks at a press conference at Gavilan College following a shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, in Gilroy, Calif., Sunday, July 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)
Police officers escort people from Christmas Hill Park following a deadly shooting during the Gilroy Garlic Festival, in Gilroy, Calif., on Sunday, July 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Police officers escort people from Christmas Hill Park following a deadly shooting during the Gilroy Garlic Festival, in Gilroy, Calif., on Sunday, July 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Police officers escort people from Christmas Hill Park following a deadly shooting during the Gilroy Garlic Festival, in Gilroy, Calif., on Sunday, July 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
CALIFORNIA, USA - JULY 28 : Gilroy residents gather at the Gilroy High School after mass shooting at the Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California on July 28, 2019. At least three people were killed on Sunday in an ongoing shooting at a festival in northern California, according to a local official. (Photo by Neal Waters/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Stephen Romero, 6, was tragically killed during Sunday's mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California. 
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A website for the Gilroy Garlic Festival describes the three-day annual celebration as "the world's greatest summer food festival."

The popular, family-friendly event, which was founded in 1979, is reportedly attended by nearly 100,000 people each year and raises millions of dollars for local schools, charities and nonprofits.

This year's tragedy has left the entire community, including Stephen Romero's family, reeling.

"There's nothing I really can do besides try to be with him until I can put him in his resting spot, wherever that is," the young victim's father told NBC Bay Area. "My son had his whole life to live and he was only 6. That's all I can say."

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