Wendy Towner of San Jose said she was one of the first victims shot by the gunman at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. As one of five victims who on Nov. 12 jointly filed a lawsuit against the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association, she appeared at a San Francisco news conference that day with her partner, Francisco Aguilera, and the attorney for all of the plaintiffs, Randall Scarlett.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from the association and First Alarm and Security Control Inc., and Scarlett said it likely will be expanded to include the city of Gilroy.
In the initial court documents, Scarlett gave new details from his clients—Towner and Aguilera of San Jose, Brynn Ota-Matthews of Santa Cruz, Nick McFarland of Morgan Hill and Justin Bates of Hollister—about the July 28 mass shooting that left three young people and the shooter dead by his own hand and wounded another 14, some seriously.
Police and the FBI continue to deny all requests for more details, including the location and other information about the attack, except to say it occurred at approximately 5:40pm July 28, lasted less than a minute and resulted in the deaths of Trevor Irby, Stephen Romero and Kayla Salazar. Police said their investigation is continuing, and the FBI continues to describe the attack as an act of domestic terrorism.
Victims describe shootings
Following are some excerpts from the court documents:
“Towner selflessly and heroically attempted to divert the shooter’s attention when she realized his rifle was trained on the many children congregated by the inflatable slide at the corner of the festival grounds. Aguilera was standing near Towner when the gunman fired in their direction. He suffered severe gunshot wounds, and his femoral artery was perforated by the shooter’s bullets.
“Towner saw the shooter inside the Garlic Festival grounds near the perimeter edge bordering Uvas Creek. Towner was near the vendor booths at the time. The shooter’s focus was on the many children and individuals near the inflatable slide at the comer of the grounds.
“Towner, realizing that many children were near the slide, including her own child, heroically attempted to divert the shooter’s attention by yelling at him. Thankfully, this prevented the shooter from firing in the direction of the many children in that area. Tragically, however, the shooter instead began unloading his high-capacity magazine at Towner and Aguilera.
“Towner sustained serious gunshot wounds to her leg. Towner’s calf muscle was torn apart by the bullets from the shooter’s rifle, and she was thrown to the ground from the force of their impact. In a state of shock, Towner remained motionless on the ground as large volumes of blood poured from her wounds.
“Standing next to Towner was Aguilera. He, too, was struck by the shooter’s barrage. Aguilera’s femoral artery was perforated, and Aguilera crashed to the ground. He immediately lost consciousness due to the magnitude of his rapid blood loss.”
The gun jammed
“As Towner lay on the ground next to Aguilera, the shooter approached their bodies. The shooter’s gun jammed, giving them critical seconds. As the shooter hovered over them and changed magazines, he asked if they were ‘OK.’ His voice sounded cold and unsympathetic. Had Towner uttered a word, it is certain the shooter would have shot them both dead.
“McFarland and Bates were approximately 20 feet from the shooter when he began firing his assault rifle into the crowd. They, too, were located at one of the vendor booths. … Suddenly, the shooter directed his fire in their direction. As the shots rang out, they could hear and feel the bullets whizz past them.
“Bates began running from the area as the shooter fired on him. As he ran, Bates suddenly felt heat in the back of his leg. Bates knew he had been shot. Despite this, Bates heroically and selflessly turned back toward the shooter in order to help carry his friend to safety. [The young woman] had frozen in terror at the sight of the shooter.
“McFarland was with Bates at the time the shooter began firing. McFarland began running and sustained wounds to his right calf from bullet fragments.”
“Ota-Matthews was on the inflatable slide at the time the shooter began firing his weapon. Upon hearing the first shots fired, Ota-Matthews quickly realized the horrific reality of what was taking place just yards away. [She] began running away from the shooter, toward the parking lot adjacent to the Garlic Festival grounds. As she ran, Ota-Matthews felt the heat of a bullet tear into her back. To this day, Ota-Matthews still has the bullet lodged near her ribcage, in close proximity to her liver.”
Bystanders’ first aid
“Other patrons of the Garlic Festival rushed to Towner and Aguilera’s aid. Unable to find medical personnel or emergency personnel, the patrons were forced to use water mixed with bleach from the utensil wash station to wash Towner’s wounds. Towner, Aguilera and Ota-Matthews were all loaded into civilian vehicles for transport, but were not able to reach a hospital for over an hour following the shooting despite being in desperate need of such emergency medical treatment.”
Scarlett said that addition to their physical injuries, lifelong medical expenses and lost income, his clients suffer “anguish, fright, horror, nervousness, grief, anxiety, worry, shock, humiliation and shame.”