With her family and dozens of her niece’s classmates arrayed behind her, Katiuska Pimentel delivered a message from Keyla Salazar’s mother, who stood behind Pimentel weeping and gripping a poster showing her daughter’s smiling face.
“Keyla was a beautiful child who cared about people, who cared about animals,” Pimentel said. “We’re in pain that we lost her.”
Keyla, 13, was killed Sunday when a gunman opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, about 30 miles from her family’s home in San Jose. The shooter killed two more people, 6-year-old Stephen Romero and 25-year-old Trevor Irby, before he was shot and killed by police.
On Tuesday night, about 100 of Keyla’s friends, classmates, teachers and family members attended a private vigil at her middle school to remember the young girl with a sweet smile and kind heart.
Keyla was a “smart, beautiful, vibrant young woman,” said Shawn Gerth, executive director of Ace San Jose, a network of charter schools that includes Keyla’s middle school.
The oldest of three daughters, Keyla would have started high school this fall, a family friend said. Instead, her friends gathered at her middle school Tuesday evening to say goodbye and comfort her family.
Donna Bellido, 17, wore a white T-shirt with the words “I love you Keyla” stenciled in blue, Keyla’s favorite color, and butterflies stenciled in silver around the words.
Donna said she met Keyla at Zumba class and remembered how friendly Keyla was. She always exercised alongside her mother, always talking and smiling, Donna said.
“She could make conversation with anyone,” Donna said.
On social media, Keyla’s family asked that attendees wear white and bring candles and flowers to the vigil.
“Join us as we come together to remember the life of a daughter, a sister, a friend, a true wonder,” a flier on social media read.
Standing in front of a battery of news cameras outside the gates of her niece’s middle school, Pimentel said their family was in disbelief and pain but thankful for the support shown by their friends and neighbors.
“There are many feelings going through our minds and hearts, but we want to be here,” Pimentel. “We want to be here because we think it’s important for the community to know who Keyla is and how important she is.”
Times staff writer Jaclyn Cosgrove in Los Angeles contributed to this report.