June 26, 2023

Travel Nurse Couple Shot and Killed at EDM Festival

Travel Nurse Couple Shot and Killed at EDM Festival

Josilyn Ruiz (left) and Brandy Escamilla (right). Photo via KTLA. The Gorge Amphitheatre photos via Fox13.

A Southern California couple, both registered nurses, were shot and killed while attending an EDM festival in Washington.

Incident Details

On June 17, 2023, 26-year-old Josilyn Ruiz and her fiancee, 29-year-old Brandy Escamilla, were attending the Beyond Wonderland EDM Festival at the Gorge Amphitheatre in George, Washington when a gunman opened fire on a crowd in the designated camping area, which was directly outside the festival grounds. 

According to the county coroner, Ruiz died from a gunshot wound to the torso, while Escamilla died of a gunshot wound to the head.

Three other individuals were wounded in the shooting: 31-year-old Andrew J. Caudra, a festival attendee, 61-year-old Lori Williams, an unarmed security worker at the festival, and 20-year-old Lily Luksich, who is reportedly the shooter’s girlfriend.

Authorities have identified the shooter as 26-year-old James M. Kelly, an active duty Army specialist who was stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in western Washington at the time of the shooting. 

James M. Kelly. Photo via Fox13.

After fleeing the scene and attempting to hide in a nearby agriculture field, Kelly was shot by an undercover law enforcement officer and survived with non-life-threatening injuries. He is now being held in police custody without bail and is facing charges of two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree assault and one count of domestic violence assault.

According to court documents, Kelly had reportedly taken hallucinogenic mushrooms and believed “the world was ending.” He and his girlfriend allegedly came to the campground area connected to the festival grounds where he then retrieved a handgun from his truck.

Kelly’s girlfriend reportedly told police that Kelly repeated, “This is the end,” several times prior to opening fire. Although Kelly’s girlfriend was injured during Kelly’s alleged shooting spree, she reportedly continued to follow him through the campground and managed to call 911 before Kelly took her phone away from her.

Investigations are still ongoing, so a motive for the shooting remains unclear. However, the Ruiz family attorney Kevin Boyle said in a media statement: “What we believe is there was a domestic violence situation going on between the shooter and someone else and that Josilyn stepped in to help the victim.” 

Nurses’ Background

Ruiz and Escamilla were both travel nurses and were living in Seattle after extending their travel contracts. The pair were high school sweethearts and were engaged to be married, planning to have their dream wedding in Greece.

Both Ruiz and Escamilla earned their nursing degrees from Mount Saint Mary’s University in Los Angeles. During their time in college, both women advocated for gay rights, with Ruiz founding a Gay-Straight Alliance chapter there.

Escamilla (right) proposed to Ruiz (left) in January 2022. Photo via KTLA.

Army Statements 

Lieutenant Colonel Mike Burns, the Director of Communications for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, issued the following statement

"First, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command extends our condolences to the victims and families of those affected by this act of violence. The command is aware of the allegations against Spc. James Kelly. We take all allegations seriously and are fully cooperating with the appropriate authorities. Spc. James Kelly is a Joint Fire Support Specialist (13F) assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Kelly joined the Army in 2021. The investigation is ongoing, we refer further questions to the appropriate civilian authorities." 

Attorney Statements

Ruiz’s parents have hired an attorney, Kevin Boyle, and are considering a civil action lawsuit against Live Nation, the company responsible for promoting the Beyond Wonderland festival.

“They have a very clear no weapons policy that they post on their website and everywhere else,” Boyle said. “So the question that I’m looking into is, ‘How was this man able to get on the premises with a weapon?’”

Another attorney statement read:

“The families of the victims are suffering intensely. They are not litigious people, and they are not after money, but they do want to know why this happened and how it can be prevented in the future. While there is much to learn, we do know that Live Nation owns and operates the Gorge — both the amphitheater and the campgrounds. To stay at the campgrounds, attendees must first buy a ticket to the show, and then pay Live Nation even more to stay at the campground. The show and camping experience offered by Live Nation is one and the same — and it is a very expensive experience. Live Nation has a legal duty to its paying guests to keep them safe. Live Nation states on the campground website that no guns are allowed. So the question is, what do they do to keep guns out of their paid venue? I know I always get searched when I go to a concert.”

Statements From Loved Ones

“Brandy was kind, caring, the kind of person that would light up a room with her energy and her beautiful smile,” a relative of Escamilla wrote on a GoFundMe page.“She was a huge light in our lives with a lot of goals and ambitions to look forward to… We cannot put into words the pain our family is enduring.”

“It’s so hard to accept the fact that you invest so much time and love in your little ones – so they will become good people, so they will become who they want to be professionally – and then just one day from another, they are taken from you. It’s just hard to accept, knowing the compassionate people they were. They didn’t deserve to die like that,” said Brandy’s father, Eddie Escamilla, in an interview.

Brandy Escamilla (center) with her parents, Eddie and Blanca Escamilla. Photo via TODAY.

“Everywhere they went, they just made friends everywhere," said Josilyn’s father, John. "They touched everyone.”

“They taught us how to love unconditionally,” added Josilyn’s mother, Anita.

Josilyn Ruiz (center) with her parents, John and Anita Ruiz. Photo via TODAY.

“As soon as you saw her, she would brighten up the room with her big, beautiful eyes, beautiful smile, and contagious laugh. Not only did our family and friends lose a special human being, but so did the world,” wrote Leilani Ruiz, Josilyn Ruiz’s sister-in-law.

Ruiz’s younger sister, Julia Ruiz, said that her sister and Escamilla came as a “package deal” and that their love was “unconditional and unbreakable, something so profound that I always envied.”

“She taught me self-life, tough love, and her relationship with Brandy showed me the greatest love,” Julia said.

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