Family and friends are heartbroken after an innocent bystander was shot and killed at an Anaheim Cinco de Mayo festival on Sunday, as they mourn the loss of a man who worked hard to help his loved ones.

“Gil came over here, he started coming around a lot,” Fabiola Soto said of her best friend, Gildardo Parrales Gracian. “He would always bring my mom little things.”

She’ll forever cherish those little things, now — drawings and momentos from Gracian, the best friend who was shot and killed at the Cinco de Mayo festival in Orange County.

He was the kind of person who always looked out for his loved ones.

“Let’s say, for example, if I didn’t have to eat, and he would have one plate, he would give me his plate,” Soto said.

Gracian was also the life of the party, and Sunday night was no different.

The 36-year-old was just ending a fun night with friend Noe Avila and his family, at the festival in La Palma Park. As they were leaving, Avila said, they heard gunshots.

“In the moment he was falling he told my son, ‘They hit me! They hit me!” Avila said in Spanish. “And my son tried to pick him up, but we couldn’t.”

Avila says, and police confirm, that Gracian was an innocent bystander, struck by gunfire after a group of nearby teens got in a fight.

Gracian would later die at the hospital.

Gracian family

Gildardo Parrales Gracian, 36, was the life of the party, and went out of his way to help those he cared about. On Sunday, he was shot and killed at an Anaheim Cinco de Mayo festival, when teenagers nearby got in an argument and one of them pulled out a gun.

“I couldn’t do anything more for my friend,” Avila said, tearfully, in Spanish. “I feel bad because everything happened so fast. It could have happened to any one of us… sadly it happened to my friend.”

His family says Gracian was the eldest of several children. He moved to the U.S. seventeen years ago, and found work as a welder. His brother says he always sent money back home to Mexico.

“We are never going to be able to see him,” said brother Fabian Gracian, speaking Spanish. “It breaks my heart. Right here, just the memories of him is what I have left.”

Gracian had plans to return home to Mexico later this year. He had just finished building a house there for himself and his family, whom he hadn’t seen since he left Mexico nearly two decades ago.

“After 17 years, after not seeing her son, its unfair for us to… [His mom] is going to see him in a casket,” said Soto.

The 17-year-old who police say fired the shots is in custody. Gracian’s family says they hope his punishment fits the crime.

“He killed an amazing person,” Soto said. “He left a mom and dad with a pain that nobody could ever fix.”


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