'We’re Gonna Get Through This': Courageous Acts Amid Terror at the Gilroy Garlic Festival

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A vigil is held in Gilroy on July 29, 2019, for victims of the mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The carnage inflicted by a lone gunman, who opened fire during the final hours of the Gilroy Garlic Festival on July 28, killing two children and a young man, would undoubtedly have been much worse if not for the courage of bystanders who did what they could to lead others to safety.

Below are just a handful of the many stories from that day. If you have a story to share, either about something you did or someone who helped you, please let us know so we can add it to this compilation.

A Rescue Ride to the Hospital

Gabriella Gaus and her friend, Brynn Ota-Matthews, were in a bounce house when they heard the first shot. They quickly fled, racing to the parking lot, but Ota-Matthews was shot in the back and bullets grazed Gaus' shoulder and back.

Brynn Ota-Matthews (L) and Gabriella Gaus (R) suffered gunshot wounds from the July 28, 2019, mass shooting at Gilroy Garlic Festival.
Brynn Ota-Matthews (L) and Gabriella Gaus (R) suffered gunshot wounds from the July 28, 2019, mass shooting at Gilroy Garlic Festival. (Sruti Mamidanna/KQED)

A friend helped them get into a golf cart, informing the driver that the pair had been hit by gunfire. Then they came across a man — who Gaus believes is named John — who was with his young son and offered them a ride in his vehicle.

"He was like, 'Get in,' " Gaus, 26, of Scotts Valley, said at a Thursday press conference. “He took us to the hospital. We were fortunate enough to not get there by ambulance, which was huge for us. I think we were one of the first people to show up."

Gaus was treated on Sunday at St. Louise Regional Hospital and discharged the same day.

Ota-Matthews, 23, was transferred to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and released Thursday. A bullet is still lodged in her liver.

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Gaus said that while fleeing the gunfire on Sunday, she thought about where she and her friend should run, since neither had grabbed their car keys.

"I just felt like we were going to be running forever," she said.

Gaus said she wants to thank the man who saved them.

"That act of kindness,” she said. “I mean we're just so lucky because I didn't feel safe until I was fully in a car."

'I Felt Like It Was My Duty'

Aaron Mazikowski had planned to go to the Garlic Festival on Sunday afternoon with his wife and three kids.

“We were supposed to go that day," said Mazikowski, a 39-year-old industrial designer, who lives just south of the festival grounds. "But my kids were sleeping, so we decided to stay home."

In the early evening, a mother and her young child frantically knocked on Mazikowski's door, informing him of the shooting and asking for a ride back to their car.

"I locked the kids and wife up in the house and took [the mother and child] to the parking lot," he said. "When I dropped them off, I saw a bunch of people. People were going all over the place — over the hills, through the gate. No one knew where they were. Everyone was scared. So I started picking up as many people as I could, mainly searching out people who had kids or weren't able-bodied."

Mazikowski said he thinks he gave rides to about eight people, most from out of town who had no idea where they were, shuttling them back to their cars. His wife, he said, was understandably concerned about him leaving the house.

"I had to step into action," he said he told her. "I felt like it was my duty. I said 'Hey, if this was you, I’d want someone to help you out.' "

He added, "To be honest, halfway through, I got kinda worried there could be someone out loose and I could be shot doing this."

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Mazikowski said the tragedy brought out the best in people in his neighborhood — a newer suburb — where many residents don't know each other well.

"You know, what I saw from my neighborhood, I felt like it made people come closer," he said. "It was really good to see my neighbors. I think everyone came together in the neighborhood."

Pizzas for First Responders

This is an abridged version of an article published earlier this week.

Raj Nayyar, the owner of Straw Hat Pizza in Gilroy, was sitting at home at midnight on Sunday thinking about the Garlic Festival shooting when he got a call from his friend Gabriel Gonzalez, who is also Gilroy's city manager.

We need some food, Gonzalez said. Could Nayyar open up his pizza place and help them out?

"I didn't have to think twice. I wanted immediately to help out," Nayyar said. "We just wanted to give back to the community."

Raj Nayyar's friends and family made pizza and wings through the night for first responders after the July 28, 2019, mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival.
Raj Nayyar's friends and family made pizza and wings through the night for first responders after the July 28, 2019, mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. (Courtesy of Raj Nayyar)

As Nayyar drove back to Gilroy from his home in Hayward, he notified a friend who had posted a call for help on Facebook. Soon thereafter, about a dozen people were in his restaurant making buffalo wings, pizzas and salads for first responders and victims' families, Nayyar said.

Nayyar said his friends and family were already awake and upset over the deadly shooting, and this gave them something productive to do. They delivered free food to first responders at four different locations in Gilroy throughout the night and continued dishing out pizzas to first responders and victims on Monday.

"Anybody that needs any food, our restaurant is open for everybody — first responders, family. We’re gonna get through this as a family. Anybody that needs any gathering, we have private rooms," he said. "Whatever people need we’re here."