Friend Of Family Grieving After One Year Old Was Killed In ���accidental��� Shooting Says The Little Girl Gave ���the Biggest Hugs���

(Courtesy of Ryan Miller)

Nicol Kimura, 38

from Placentia, Calif.

Nicol Kimura’s group of friends had grown up together in Orange County and were still so tight-knit that their respective children considered their parents’ friends to be aunts and uncles.

The group went to dinners together, celebrated holidays together and attended concerts as a group, especially country music shows. At some point a few years back, they decided to start referring to one another as “framily.”

“It just so happens that Nicol was just the catalyst for that,” said Ryan Miller, one of Kimura’s close friends. “She was happy 99 percent of the time. You just couldn’t help but laugh when she laughed, and you couldn’t help but smile with her. She was the life of the party.”

Kimura and the “framily” were together at the Route 91 Harvest festival when she was shot. In the minutes before, seven members of the group were dancing and goofing around as they always did — as they’d done at several concerts already this year. Then came the sudden barrage of gunfire, the confusion, the panic and the fear. And before anyone could fully grasp what was happening, the framily was permanently stripped of one of its members.

Kimura leaves behind two parents and a sister who all live in Southern California, Miller said. She worked for the county’s tax collection department, provided the most “awesome hugs” to the people she loved and doted on a dog named Sadie. Her Facebook page is dotted with pictures of Sadie dressed as Santa Claus, Sadie’s nose up close, Sadie and Kimura on a hike. Kimura loved the puppy and took her everywhere, Miller said.

“The dog was a crazy, energetic personality much like Nicol, so they fit together very well,” he said. To Miller’s kids, “she was the fun, crazy aunt everyone wants.”

“She’s like your all-around person — super crafty, your Martha Stewart,” said Courtney Calderon, Kimura’s friend since the fourth grade. Kimura was always organizing social events; she even made everyone T-shirts for the concert that featured their favorite alcoholic beverage. (Kimura’s said dirty martini.) Another time, Kimura arranged a whole tea party, complete with tiny sandwiches, for Calderon’s and another friend’s young daughters.

Kimura was divorced and didn’t have children. But these past five years, the framily was everything to her, Calderon said. Kimura would go to wine tastings and concerts; she would decorate for Thanksgiving. “I’ve never seen her so happy, and she was just enjoying life,” Calderon said.

The framily’s Facebook pages Wednesday reflected a stream of grief and condolences. “I’m having a really tough time tonight!” someone wrote. She was “such an amazing, fun and loyal friend,” wrote another. “So sorry,” others said, seemingly hundreds of times.

When the shooting started Sunday night, the group of friends — like many other concert attendees — at first assumed it was fireworks. Then they saw country star Jason Aldean run off the stage. They heard people shouting for everyone to get down on the ground. They dropped, all seven of them, to the dirt where they had just been dancing. And when the shooting let up for a minute, someone called out that Kimura was bleeding.

Kimura had been shot in the side of her back, but as they tried to move her — somewhere, anywhere, away from the gunfire — the bullets started raining down again. Another friend, Chad Elliott, threw himself on top of Kimura to shield her from further injury. In the chaos and the panic, they tried to move Kimura again. Elliott talked to her, stayed beside her and told her he loved her, even as the gunfire continued, Miller said.

“Slowly she started to fade away,” Miller said. And by the time two EMTs reached her, “they knew it was just too late.”

— Abigail Hauslohner

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