On Monday a gunman opened fire at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois, a suburb 30 minutes north of Chicago, killing seven people and injuring at least 47 others.
One of the victims, Nicolás Toledo, a Mexican national visiting family, died at the scene.
Toledo, who had spent most of his life in Morelos, Mexico and was the father of eight children, had only been in the country for two months, his granddaughter Xochil Toledo told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Xochil said she remembers seeing her 70-year-old grandfather sitting as the band passed along the parade route.
“He was so happy,” she told the Sun-Times’ Elvia Malagón. “Happy to be living in the moment.”
Once bullets began flying their way, Xochil said her father tried to block them from hitting her grandfather and was shot in the arm. In the end, three shots ended her grandfather’s life.
Soon after, she realized her boyfriend had been shot in the back. He and her father were both taken to a hospital.
“We were all in shock,” Xochil said. “We were crying. We couldn’t believe all that had happened. We couldn’t breathe.”
Police believe the alleged gunman, 21-year-old Robert “Bobby” E. Crimo III of neighboring Highwood, had been planning the attack “for several weeks” and even dressed as a woman to conceal his identity as he fled the scene.
Xochil told the New York Times that her grandfather didn’t want to attend the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park but that her family refused to leave him behind as his disabilities called for being around someone full-time.
Latino Rebels reached out to Xochil, who said she is refraining from speaking with the press and is instead spending time with her family.
Talking to the Sun-Times on Monday, she described her grandfather as a man with a sense of humor, a big smile, and bright blue eyes.
“He was a sweet, caring grandfather,” Toledo told the Chicago Sun-Times. “He wanted only the best for his kids and grandchildren.”
The family created a GoFundMe campaign to help with medical and funeral expenses. In less than a day, the goal of $50,000 raised had been surpassed.
Chantal Vaca is a summer correspondent for Futuro Media based in New York City and a graduate of the Columbia University School of Journalism. Twitter: @VacaChantal