This undated photo provided by Maria G. Zalaya shows Keyla Salazar. She was one of three young people who died when a gunman opened fire at a popular California food festival Sunday. The 13-year-old from San Jose, Calif., died at the scene. (Maria G. Zalaya via AP)

Funeral instead of 14th birthday for teen killed at festival

August 06, 2019 - 2:51 pm

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Keyla Salazar's family had planned to celebrate her birthday with a trip to a lake, but two days after she would have turned 14, they instead said their final goodbyes to the middle-schooler killed in a mass shooting at a California food festival.

A funeral Mass in English and Spanish was held Tuesday at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in San Jose. Before the service, mourners used colored markers to write messages on the white casket adorned with pink lilies.

"Keyla, you're an angel. We will never forget you!" read one. Another said, "Keyla, I love you with all my heart."

Relatives wore T-shirts with a photo of a smiling Keyla wearing a crown of small pink paper flowers.

It was the first memorial for the people killed when Santino William Legan cut through a fence and opened fire with a Romanian-made AK-47 style-rifle on July 28 at the popular Gilroy Garlic Festival. Legan also killed 6-year-old Stephen Romero of San Jose and Trevor Irby, 25, of Romulus, New York. More than a dozen people were injured.

Legan, 19, killed himself after officers shot him multiple times, officials said. Authorities have not determined his motive in the attack that came the weekend before a shooting in Texas and another in Ohio left a combined 31 people dead.

The FBI said Tuesday that the investigation found that Legan kept a "target list" that included religious groups, major buildings and both major U.S. political parties.

Reporters weren't permitted inside the church for the funeral Tuesday but the family released a statement before the service.

"She was a girl who loved science and technology, creating ingenious videos, making everyone laugh," It said. "Her greatest hope was to pursue a career in animation, designing and creating characters and stories.

"Keylita was very loved by everyone and will always be in our hearts for her pure and beautiful life teachings that she left us."

A private burial service was planned in nearby Palo Alto.

Keyla would have turned 14 on Sunday and the family had planned to go to a lake and celebrate, her aunt Katiuska Pimentel said. Instead, her family gathered over the weekend to celebrate her life at a San Jose park, where they showcased artwork by the girl with a sweet smile.

They served tacos, listened to a mariachi band and helped plant flowers to honor Keyla's memory.

The day of the shooting, the teenager was eating ice cream with her mother, stepfather, two younger sisters and other family members when they heard what they thought were fireworks. They realized they were gunshots, said her stepfather, Eduardo Lopez.

The family started to run away, but Keyla stayed back to help a relative who used a cane. When Lopez turned around, he said he saw Keyla fall and thought she was taking cover. When he went back to help her get up, he said he was shot in the arm.

"It's been very hard losing her, especially for her mother. She hasn't felt well," Lopez said.

Pimentel described the teenager as a hardworking student who loved drawing and video games.

She loved animals and was planning on getting a puppy for one of her sisters. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who attended Sunday's celebration, promised the family a golden retriever.

"She was such a caring person," Pimentel said. "She would give everything to other people ... We lost a really beautiful life."

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Associated Press writer Christopher Weber contributed from Los Angeles.

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