Community comes together to remember teen shot and killed at Halloween party

An estimated 150 people attend a vigil at a candle memorial for 18-year-old Michael Daniel Zuniga-Macias, who was shot and killed during a Halloween party on the property of Gilroy Councilwoman Rebeca Armendariz. Photo courtesy Dori Ann Prado


By Robert Airoldi

Michael Daniel Zuniga-Macias

Friends and family of the 18-year-old killed at a Halloween party in the early morning hours of Oct. 30 are trying to find the strength to grieve and understand what happened that night.

Michael Daniel Zuniga-Macias was shot and killed while trying to break up a fight, friends said. He was one of four victims shot. Two remain in the hospital while a fourth was treated and released.

“The family is taking it day by day,” said Dori Ann Prado, the founder of Living Above the Influence nonprofit and an organizer of the Nov. 3 vigil. “They are distraught.”

The morning before the vigil, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office declined to press charges against Gilroy resident Benjamin David Calderon, 19, “pending further investigation.” Calderon was arrested Oct. 30. The decision cleared the way for his release. He had been held without bail at the Main Jail in San Jose.

Police arrested 18-year-old Lucas James Tomasetti after law enforcement officers served search warrants Nov. 9, at three different locations in the city. A firearm was located at one of the locations. It is not known if the weapon was used during the shooting, police said. Tomasetti was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, police said. He was booked into Santa Clara County Jail.

Family members urged partygoers to “step up” and talk with police if they witnessed what occurred.

“This was a large, chaotic Halloween party that ended with a tragic shooting and homicide,” said Chief Trial Deputy Angela Bernhard in a statement.

The party was held on property owned by Gilroy Councilmember Rebeca Armendariz.

“Michael got in the way trying to bring peace to a situation,” Prado said. “And he ended up getting shot.”

She said she organized the vigil to help the community heal.

“We wanted a space for families to feel supported and for the community to come together and allow the kids to express themselves,” Prado said. “The atmosphere was really beautiful.” Zuniga Macias has an older brother and two younger brothers.

Questions continue to mount for Armendariz, including how the party was planned and promoted and where she was when shots were fired. She was absent from the city council’s Nov. 1 meeting and has not returned requests for comment. She told ABC News that Calderon is a second cousin.

From a flyer invitation on social media, it appears Calderon was the organizer of the party. The invitation shows that attendees must be 18 or older and that security would be provided. It encouraged costumes and had the acronyms BYOB and BYOW at the top.

The crime scene was searched and processed by the Gilroy Police Department’s Crime Scene Investigations Unit and the Santa Clara County Crime Lab. Subsequent to the search, two firearms were recovered, as well as additional evidence. It is unknown at this time if either of these firearms were used during this incident.

“I am thankful that my family and I, who live on Las Animas, were not hurt in this tragedy, and I pray for those whose loved ones have been touched by what has occurred,” Armendariz said in a statement issued Oct. 30. “We hope the Gilroy community will come together with love and support for those touched by yesterday’s events at the appropriate time.”

Mayor Marie Blankley urged the community to show the best side of ourselves to each other and especially to the families of the victims.

“We all have questions that can’t be answered,” she said. “Getting the answers and the truth is the goal and I implore everybody to understand and be patient and avoid speculating.”

Armendariz was elected to the city council last year. She previously served on the city’s planning commission and is a founder of the Community Agency for Resources, Advocacy and Services, which is committed to community empowerment and the betterment of Latino families through leadership development, advocacy and cultural awareness, according to the group’s Facebook page.

Prado reiterated that now is the time for the community to heal.

“My heart hurts so much for them,” she said. “They are believers in God and that really helps in the healing.”

This incident is being investigated by the Gilroy Police Department. Anyone with any information may contact Detective Chris Silva at (408) 846-0335. Those wishing to remain anonymous may call the Gilroy Police Department Tip Line at (408) 846-0330.


Robert Airoldi