Victor Gomez, who was gunned down while his wife and three children were unharmed nearby at an Indiana shopping mall, is remembered as a dedicated, hard-working family man and entrepreneur.
Gomez’s aunt, Maria Zaragoza, told The Epoch Times that while Gomez's wife and children were in a women's restroom, Gomez had been in the men's restroom, where police said the gunman spent an hour, presumably preparing for the shooting.
She didn’t know precisely where Gomez was when he was shot, but Zaragoza believes he was in or near the restroom. Zaragoza said that Gomez was “a very special person” with a zest for life. She showed photos of Gomez dancing, caring for several large dogs he owned, and relishing family outings, which she said happened almost every weekend.
Zaragoza worries about Gomez’s wife, Rosy, and the couple’s children, ages 12, 7, and 4, who witnessed the aftermath of the Greenwood Park Mall shooting that killed Gomez, 30, and two other mall visitors on July 17. Two other people were wounded; information on them hasn’t been released. A legally armed citizen killed the gunman and shielded others from harm, police said.
Zaragoza expressed concern for the traumatic experience that Gomez’s children endured. She believes they saw their gravely wounded father being taken from the scene. She encouraged Rosy Gomez: "Stay strong for the babies."
Gomez's funeral will be held this weekend in Indianapolis, where he ran a business called TRU Marble and Granite LLC. Gomez, whose family roots are in Mexico, was born in Florida; he lived most of his life in Indianapolis, Zaragoza said.
Police identified the armed citizen-hero as Elisjsha Dicken, 22.
In a prepared statement, Dicken's attorney said his client is "a true American hero who saved countless lives during a horrific event that could have been so much worse if not for Eli's courage, preparedness, and willingness to protect others."
Police identified the gunman as Jonathan Douglas Sapirman, 20, who opened fire with a rifle and fired 24 rounds before he was shot down. Sapirman's body had eight gunshot wounds, according to the Johnson County Coroner's Office. His victims all suffered multiple gunshot wounds.
On July 19, two days after the shooting, several people, including safety personnel with decades of service, said they couldn’t remember another similar incident in Greenwood, a community of about 64,000 people near Indianapolis.
The shooting happened at a mall where police and firefighters had trained to prepare for an “active shooter” scenario in the past, officials said.
American flags were flying at half-staff in several places around town, including outside the police and fire stations, to honor and mourn the shooting victims. Residents said they were shocked, saddened, and puzzled about the shooting and expressed appreciation for Dicken.
Resident Joe Bowling, who paused in his vehicle as he prepared to drive away from the police and court buildings, said that except for his stint in the Marines, he has lived in Greenwood for all of his 56 years. This is the first time he can remember a “mass shooting” there.
“You can outlaw guns, but then the good guy wouldn’t have had one to stop him (the gunman),” Bowling said. He praised Dicken for having the presence of mind to “keep people behind him and protect the public.”
Bowling added that his mind was swirling with unanswered questions, especially about the gunman’s motivation.
Authorities identified the other deceased victims as Pedro Pineda, 56, and his wife, Rosa Mirian Rivera de Pineda, 37. Like Gomez, they lived in Indianapolis, where members of the Hispanic community were planning fundraisers to pay for the Pinedas’ funerals. The money is to be shared with the Gomez family, said Diana Escobar, a friend of the Pinedas family.
Escobar runs a used car dealership in Indianapolis and belongs to a group called “Latinos Unidos,” or Latinos United. She said the Pinedas, who came to the United States from a small town in El Salvador, were immensely respected in that group of about 25 people and showed up for all the cultural events, celebrations, and fundraisers.
A big Hispanic community event has long been planned for September, “and they should be there,” Escobar said as she wept during an interview. She learned of the Pinedas’ deaths on July 18, a day after the shooting. She was in disbelief. Escobar said the couple will be remembered for the intense love they shared, evident to anyone who observed the pair.
“It was the way they looked at each other, the way they were always together,” she said. Although she and others felt almost paralyzed with grief, Escobar said she told another supporter: “This is a time when we have to show up,” because that is what the Pinedas would have done.