Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting: Shooting victim Keyla Salazar killed one week before 14th birthday

GILROY, Calif. -- The family of 13-year-old Keyla Salazar shared stories about who Keyla was, during a scheduled press conference on Tuesday.

The bright young teen would've celebrated her 14th birthday this upcoming Sunday.

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Her family spoke at ACE Empower Academy in San Jose about the joy Keyla brought to her community and their lives.

Strong, smart, beautiful, and vibrant are just a few words family and friends are using to describe Keyla. She was one of three, killed in Sunday's shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival.

"We wanted to be here because we think it's important that the community knows who Keyla is," her aunt, Katiuska Pimentel told reporters through tears. "And how important she is for us."

Her family was at ACE Empower Academy just last month, celebrating Keyla's 8th-grade graduation. Tuesday night, they were back to grieve.

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Family members said Keyla was the first to stand up when she heard gunfire, Sunday. They said she turned to look for family, that's when she was shot.

"Just a desperate wish that it never happened," family friend, Rebeca Armendariz told ABC7 News about the tragic incident. "That it was all a bad dream."

During the press conference, Keyla's mom, dad and siblings stood behind those who spoke. Her immediate family trying their best to hold in the heartache.

Shawn Gerth, ACE Charter Schools executive director told the crowd, "The focus of our community right now is supporting Keyla's family as they grieve, supporting our staff, and supporting our students."

These are groups now forced to live without the girl described as "Sunshine." She's a young woman who family said spent the morning of the shooting cleaning and completing chores to convince her parents to buy her a puppy.

A teen who would've celebrated a birthday just one week later.

"She was our motivation, and we're in pain that we lost her," Pimentel told reporters.

In a statment provided by her family they said, "Thirteen-year-old Keyla was a recent graduate of Ace Empower school, where she was loved by staff and students alike. 'Keyla was always happy. If we were all having a bad day, as soon as that bell rang she was smiling and raising her hand with the best, most inquisitive questions. She stumped us constantly with her questions. She was kind and open hearted and treated everyone really well.' Edward Sabando, former site coordinator Ace Empower after school program. She loved playing Mario brothers and Pokemon Go. She had a pet Guinea pig and a Chihuahua named Lucky, whom she adored. Keyla was kind and loving and wanted to grow up to be an animation artist.

After the scheduled press conference, Keyla's family hosted a private vigil on school grounds.

A GoFundMe has been set up for Keyla's family.



Get the latest on the deadly Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting here.
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