At least three people died — including a 6-year-old boy — and 15 others injured when a man opened fire Sunday evening at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, about 30 miles from San Jose, California.
Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee told reporters Sunday night that the shooter apparently entered the festival through a creek that borders the parking area. The suspect — identified as 19-year-old Santino William LeGan — used a tool to cut through a fence to avoid security and gain access to the festival area.
Gunshots were reported around 5:40 p.m., and within a minute, three officers armed with handguns engaged the shooter and “fatally wounded him,” Smithee said.
LeGan, who was from Gilroy, legally purchased an AK-47-type rifle in Nevada on July 9, police said.
Police haven’t determined a motive, and the FBI is looking into any ideological leanings or group membership.
A now-deleted Instagram account that appeared to belong to LeGan had only three posts, one of which was posted before the shooting at the Garlic Festival on Sunday. The post said: “Ayyy garlic festival time. Come get wasted on overpriced shit.”
The most recent post from Sunday evening was an image of a Smokey Bear sign warning about high fire danger, with the caption: “Read Might Is Right by Ragnar Redbeard. Why overcrowd towns and pave more open space to make room for hordes of mestizos and Silicon Valley white twats?”
Might Is Right, a book published in 1890, is widely associated with white supremacist, anti-Semitic, sexist and misogynist views around the core theme of “survival of the fittest.”
According to the Instagram account’s bio, LeGan had Iranian and Italian roots.
LeGan was the youngest of four brothers. His father, Tom LeGan, is a competitive track-and-field runner, while one of his brothers, Rosino LeGan, is a boxer.
Jerome Turcan, a family friend whose gym Tom LeGan and some of his sons trained at, told BuzzFeed News that when he heard about the shooting at the festival, he called Tom and Rosino. He said Rosino told him that he and a cousin were in a car trying to find Santino LeGan, who had not been answering his phone. Tom LeGan was in another car, trying to find his youngest son, Turcan said.
When Turcan heard Monday that Santino LeGan had been identified as the shooter, he said, “I was shocked. It’s unbelievable.”
Turcan, an MMA fighter and coach, said he and Tom LeGan have been best friends for more than 16 years and that he had trained 23-year-old Rosino since he was 7.
He described the LeGans as a “close” and “tight-knit” family who are very into sports.
Turcan said that he did not know Santino Legan as well as the other brothers because Santino did not visit his gym.
Thomas LeGan, Santino LeGan’s paternal grandfather who died last May, was a Santa Clara County Supervisor in 1988. He was acquitted at the time of charges that he molested his elder daughter.
The police chief said some witnesses reported that there might be a second suspect, but it remains unclear if that person was also a shooter or if they supported the first suspect in some manner.
The names of the victims were not immediately released, but Smithee said Sunday that a 6-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl, and a man in his twenties died in the attack.
Alberto Romero told NBC Bay Area that his son, Stephen Romero, who had just celebrated his sixth birthday last month, was at the festival with his mother and grandmother.
“I don’t know what to say. My son had his whole life to live and he was only 6,” Alberto Romero said.
The boy’s mother and grandmother sustained non-life-threatening injuries.
“It is just incredibly sad and disheartening that an event that does so much good for our community has to suffer from a tragedy like this,” Smithee said.
Video from the festival shows attendees running, with some people yelling, “Go, go,” and one person asking, “Who’d shoot at a garlic festival, man?”
The annual Gilroy Garlic Festival is a three-day celebration of the state’s garlic production and attracts thousands of visitors every year, according to the festival’s website.
TinMan, a classic rock band from San Jose, was onstage when the shooting started. On Facebook, the group called the experience “horrible and surreal” and thanked police for their “quick action that probably saved many lives.”
Joe Coniglio, the band’s drummer, told BuzzFeed News that they had just started their encore song “as the shots began to fire.”
A couple hundred people had been watching the music and meandering around the area. The gunman, he said, seemed to be randomly shooting into the throng of people to the right of the stage.
“The food court, which is about 20 yards away, had hundreds more,” Coniglio said. “The shooter came in the area between the food court and stage.”
The drummer said he stayed onstage until police arrived and that he “saw one man carrying a victim, a young boy about 9 maybe, as he ran toward the officers.”
Police are still looking into reports that a second person was involved, but have no confirmation if that suspect also opened fire, Smithee said.
“This is a tragic incident for our community. On behalf of the city and the Gilroy City Council our thoughts and prayers go out [to] the victims and families,” Gilroy Mayor Roland Velasco said in a statement.
Late Sunday night, the Gilroy Unified School District said grief counselors would be at the high school all day Monday “as our students, staff and community begin the healing process.”
“I am thinking of each of you tonight and praying for peace in your hearts after today’s tragic events at the Gilroy Garlic Festival,” Superintendent Deborah Flores said.
On July 2, Gilroy High School had posted a callout on its Facebook page asking for alumni to help volunteer at the garlic festival, writing, “we know you like to reminisce about the good old days when you worked at GF for community service hours.”