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:
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."
- This article was initially published on AOL.com: Father of 6-year-old boy killed at Gilroy Garlic Festival: 'My son had his whole life to live'