GILROY (California) July 30 2019 : A California teenager was identified by police yesterday as the gunman who opened fire with an assault rifle at a garlic festival here, killing three people, including two children.
Santino William Legan, 19, cut through a fence at the festival on Sunday evening and shot people seemingly at random with an “AK-47-style” assault rifle, police chief Scot Smithee told reporters. Legan was fatally shot by three police officers armed with handguns.
“It could have gone so much worse so fast,” Smithee said, noting the festival, which takes place about 48 kilometres southeast of Silicon Valley, is attended by thousands of visitors.
Police were still trying to determine a motive for the shooting and investigating unconfirmed reports by eyewitnesses that Legan may have had an accomplice.
Legan killed a 6-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl and a man in his 20s, Smithee said. Police believe Legan, who was originally from Gilroy, purchased the rifle legally on July 9 in Nevada, where he had been living with family members.
At least 12 people were injured, but it was unclear how many of them were struck by gunfire. Police had initially said that 15 people were injured.
Seven of the victims, ranging in age between 12 and 69 years old, were taken to nearby Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. One was released and another was transferred to another facility, according to the hospital .
Of the five remaining patients, one was listed in critical condition, one in serious condition and the other in fair condition. Two patients have requested no information be released.
St. Louise Regional Medical Center in Gilroy received six patients with gunshot wounds, including one of the victims who later died, the hospital said.
Two other victims were transferred to another hospital and three were discharged. Another eight people came with non-gunshot injuries, but were not admitted to the hospital.
President Donald Trump described the gunman as a “wicked murderer” during an event at the White House, and asked Americans to pray for the victims.
“We grieve for their families, and we ask that God will comfort them with his overflowing mercy and grace,” he said.
The gunman was believed to have cut through a fence in order evade metal detectors and other security at the festival entrance, police said.
Legan appeared to post a photograph from the festival on his Instagram account shortly before the shooting, with captions expressing his disdain for the event.
“Ayyy garlic festival time,” he wrote beneath a picture of people walking through the festival grounds. “Come get wasted on overpriced shit.”
Another photograph posted on Sunday showed a sign warning of a high danger of forest fires. Its caption urged people to read “Might is Right,” a racist and sexist treatise written by the pseudonymous author Ragnar Redbeard in the 19th century.
“Why overcrowd towns and pave more open space to make room for hordes of mestizos and Silicon Valley white twats?” the caption said. The account was only a few days old, and was deactivated yesterday.
Footage uploaded to social media showed festival attendees scattering in fear and confusion as loud popping sounds could be heard in the background.
Police declined to name the fatalities yesterday, but one of them was identified by his grandmother in an interview with the local ABC affiliate as Stephen Romero, 6. Maribel Romero described Stephen as a “loving boy” who was “always kind, happy and … playful.”
Romero was near a bouncy house when he was shot, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
His mother and the boy’s other grandmother were also shot and were being treated in a hospital, Maribel Romero told local media.
Keyla Salazar, 13, of San Jose was also killed in the shooting, the Santa Clara Coroner’s Office said.
Founded in 1979, the Gilroy Garlic Festival is an annual event run by volunteers and held outdoors at Christmas Hill Park. The agricultural community bills itself as the “Garlic Capital of the World.”
Weapons of any kind are prohibited, according to the event’s website, which also said anyone wearing clothing or paraphernalia indicating membership in a gang, including a motorcycle club, would be refused entry.