A 3-year-old Gilroy boy – the son of a San Jose Police officer and a Gilroy High graduate who many described as a “fine young man” – died from a gunshot wound Thursday evening, according to the Gilroy Police Department.
According to reports, the boy likely accidentally shot himself with a handgun in the upstairs bedroom of a home on the 7500 block of Kentwood Court off Third Street in Gilroy around 6 p.m. Thursday. Police confirmed late Thursday night that the boy died from his wounds en route to the hospital.
Gilroy Police confirmed on Friday afternoon that the firearm in the "horrific accident" is a semi-automatic pistol and it is not a San Jose Police Department issued firearm, but a privately owned gun.
The toddler - Preston Lawrence Orlando - is the son of San Jose police officer Brandon Orlando and his wife, Julie, who is the daughter of longtime Gilroy area swimming coach Jeff Ross. They recently celebrated their eighth wedding anniversary on July 3. Preston celebrated his third birthday on June 23. Julie’s older sister Jennifer (Ross) Barbaglia was crowned Miss Gilroy Garlic in 1993.
Those who knew Brandon and Julie when they attended GHS before graduating in 1998 and 1999 were stunned and saddened by the events and heaped praise on the “exceptional parents” who were “just great kids.”
The Gilroy born-and-raised couple wed July 3, 2004 at the Hayes Mansion in San Jose. They have one other daughter who is in the second or third grade, according to Christopher High School Principal John Perales.
“They come from very good families and were very respected among their peers,” noted Sal Tomasello, who served as GHS Athletic Director when Brandon and Julie were in high school.
“What a tragedy ... I can’t even imagine.”
Perales, one of Brandon’s former GHS football coaches, coined the San Jose police officer as “the kind of guy where I could call him out of the blue and say, ‘Hey, I need you to help me,’ and I can guarantee he’ll be there.”
Tomasello’s recollection of Brandon paints a similar portrayal.
“He was just a fine young man, a good student, good athlete and kind of quiet,” remembers Tomasello. “He wasn’t the one that would do things to draw attention to himself ... he was just a fine young man.”
Perales’s said his wife, Leighan, coached Julie on the GHS cheerleading squad. He says Julie, who graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Studies and a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, is a teacher in San Jose.
After rushing over last night to offer their support and condolences to Julie’s parents – Jeff and Lorraine Ross – Perales said the grandparents are a “strong” couple, “but they’re having a really hard time.” Including Julie, Jeff and Lorraine have five daughters: Jennifer, Jaime, Jodi and Jasmine.
“He lives for his kids and grandkids,” said Perales. “He’s always thinking about how he’s going to spend the weekend with them. It’s just a really neat, tight family.”
OTHER CHILDREN NOT INVOLVED, POLICE SAY
When police and emergency personnel responded to the home around 6 p.m. Thursday evening, "they immediately began to treat the boy for his life-threatening injuries," according to a press release sent out by the Gilroy Police Department at 10:30 p.m. Thursday.
"Unfortunately, emergency personnel were unable to save the boy and he was pronounced deceased while en route to a local hospital," the release said.
"Gilroy Police and the San Jose Police Department will continue to make sure that the boy’s family is supported during this difficult time," said Gilroy Police Sgt. Chad Gallacinao.
Gallacinao said police have launched a full investigation and it is ongoing.
Gilroy police said the preliminary investigation confirmed the boy was shot with a handgun while the house was full of adults and several preteen children.
Police have not confirmed if the weapon was his father's police-issued firearm or whether or not anyone else was in the bedroom with the boy when the incident occurred.
Gallacinao did say, however, that without confirming where the preteen children physically were during the incident, he confirmed that they were not directly involved in the shooting.
Agencies conducting the investigation include Gilroy Police Detectives, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office and the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Shortly after the accident occurred, distraught neighbors stood in their front yards around 7 p.m. in the neighborhood of middle-class homes with gardens in full summer bloom and welcome signs on their doors. Twenty to 30 police officers were in the area.
At least two Gilroy police officers, wearing paper shoe covers, stood watch at the home while officials from the Coroner’s Office and a Deputy District Attorney conducted their investigation inside.
Neighbors spoke in whispers to one another, while a few others yelled across the way to talk about unrelated news as the night wore on.
Despite the intermittent sound of conversations, the neighborhood was eerily silent Thursday around 8:30 p.m. when police and investigators left for the evening.
Neighbors declined to speak about the tragedy publicly, but one expressed a pervasive sentiment: “This child is part of our family.”
Another Gilroyan on the scene said, “The family is very safe. I don’t know how this could have happened.”
"Since the death involved a child, the Santa Clara County Child Death Protocol was activated to ensure this tragic incident is investigated to its fullest," according to the GPD.
San Jose Police spokesman Jason Dwyer said that the entire department has come to Orlando’s side to help his through this time. The night of the shooting, more than two dozen officers arrived at the hospital to support Orlando, including San Jose Pollice Chief Chris Moore, San Jose Chaplain David Bridgen, Gilroy Police Chaplian Malcolm MacPhail.
“You could feel it in the air how much the officers were hurting for their fellow officer,” Dwyer said.
Dwyer said when a tragedy as serious as this strikes an officer, the department, or "family" grieves together.
“We have worked through hard situations before as a family, and we’ll do it this time as well,” he said.
Dwyer said that grief counseling is available not only to Orlando, but to any other officer who is having a hard time processing the shooting.
“We encourage our officers to talk about how they are feeling about this,” he said. “This is a tragic time, and we all need to keep an eye on each other through it.”
INVESTIGATION CONTINUES INTO ‘TERRIBLE ACCIDENT’
The investigation of the home concluded some time in the hours past midnight on Friday, but the investigation of the incident has only just begun. Gallacinao did not say whether or not Brandon Orlando will face charges, but did say that a major part of the investigation will be on how the guns were stored - and despite Orlando being one of their own, Gallacinao said the investigation will be thorough and objective.
“I will say however, that we believe this to be an accident. A terrible, horrific accident,” Gallacinao said.
By Friday mid-morning, Kentwood Court was quiet and empty, as summer song birds chirped away and American flags in front of homes flapped in the breeze. Several cars were parked outside the Orlando’s blind-drawn home. Most neighbors still declined to comment about the shooting, except that they were “shocked” and “horrified” for the loss of a young boy’s life.
“When I first heard the sirens, I immediately thought something had happened to an older person,” said 77-year-old Wanda Orsetti, who characterized the neighborhood as being “mostly seniors” and retired people. “So when I learned that it was a little boy, I was devastated.”
Orsetti said she did not know the family well, but still was shaken up about the shooting.
“What can I say to them at this time?” she said. “I could say I’m sorry but that’s not going to help. What a terrible tragedy for that family.”
Anyone with information regarding this incident is urged to contact the Gilroy Police Department at (408) 846-0350. Parties wishing to remain anonymous may call We-Tip at 1-800-782-7463 (800-78-Crime).