Gilroy Garlic Festival shooter died in gun battle with officers, chief says
Gilroy Garlic Festival shooter died in gun battle with officers, chief says
by Patrick May, Erin Woo, Julia Sulek
The man who killed three people, including a 6-year-old boy, at the Gilroy Garlic Festival died in a gun battle with three officers, according to the city’s police chief.
Santino William Legan was the man who opened fire with an assault-type rifle at the close of the three-day festival before three Gilroy police officers, armed with handguns, exchanged gunfire with Legan and killed him. He was 19 years old and the grandson of former Santa Clara County Supervisor Tom Legan, who died last year. While a supervisor, Tom Legan was charged with molesting a female relative. He was acquitted of the charges in 1988. Days later he lost his bid for re-election.
At a press conference Monday morning, Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said two others killed were a 13-year-old girl and man in his 20s. Their identities have not been released.
“When the call came in, our closest team of officers responded immediately and engaged the suspect in less than a minute,” Smithee said. “The suspect was armed with an assault-type rifle. He fired at the officers with the rifle and three officers engaged the suspect. And despite being outgunned – they were using hand guns against his rifle – they were able to fatally wound the suspect.”
Smithee added that the quick action by his officers prevented a tragedy that could “have been so much worse so fast.”
The chief said the gun used was what he described as “an AK-47 type assault rifle that had been purchased legally in Nevada on July 9.”
County of Santa Clara spokeswoman Joy Alexiou confirmed that a total of 19 people from the festival were sent to two county hospitals, St. Louise and Valley Medical Center. Of the three fatal gunshot victims, she said one died at St. Louise. Five patients are remain at VMC, with one in critical condition, one serious and one fair. The other two requested privacy about their conditions.
At Monday’s press conference, Craig Fair, Assistant Special Agent in Charge at the FBI’s San Francisco office, said he had a team of 30 people in the field gathering evidence. He said the team was looking for “motivation, ideological leanings” of the suspect and whether he had been ” affiliated with anyone or any group. That still has to be ruled out or determined at this point.”
Fair added that the original crime scene has been expanded to now including “many many acres.”
We will pause social media updates as our investigation continues throughout the night with multiple agencies on scene assisting. A press briefing will be scheduled tomorrow. #GilroyActiveShooter
— Gilroy Police (@GilroyPD) July 29, 2019
Gilroy Mayor Roland Velasco declared a proclamation of a local emergency early Monday morning, as the investigation into the shooting continues.
“I would ask for the thoughts and prayers of the community as our officers continue to investigate this tragic and senseless crime,” Velasco said.
At a press conference Monday morning, the mayor said that the ‘’people of Gilroy are strong and resilient,’’ saying “we’ll mourn but we’ll get through it.’’ We ‘’never imagined something like this could happen here.’’ He said that the shock and sorrow were amplified by the fact that the shooting took place in the midst of an annual festival beloved by the entire Bay Area and how terrible it was to have ‘’an event like this happen.’’
The shooting brought chaos to the storied annual event south of San Jose, sending hundreds of panicked festival-goers running for cover. Among the dead was Stephen Romero, a 6-year-old San Jose boy, whose mother and grandmother were also shot and being treated at Valley Medical Center in San Jose but expected to survive.
The Romeros, including Stephen, are cousins of San Jose City Councilmember Maya Esparza, according to a Facebook post she wrote Monday morning.
“Heartache and prayers for my cousins who were wounded yesterday and losing my little cousin, only 6 years old,” Esparza wrote. “And I’m angry, so angry. This violence has to stop. How do some people have such little regard for life.”
A GoFundMe campaign for the Romero family has been launched by the South County Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram Fiat in Gilroy.
Investigators on Monday were still looking a possible motive in the attack. Witnesses said the gunman appeared to be firing at random. Some witnesses said he suddenly appeared from behind a stage before beginning to shoot on the final evening of the three-day event that draws 100,000 people each year.
“It’s just incredibly sad and disheartening that an event that does so much good for our com
“It’s sort of a nightmare you hope you never have to live in reality,” Smithee said at a news conference late Sunday.
Natalie Martinez, a longtime Gilroy resident, told KTVU she had gone to get food and was separated from her two daughters when the shooting began. “I ran to find the girls … and we basically ran into each other.”
“I thought, we’re open prey. It was awful.”
Some witnesses said the gunman quietly and calmly went about his shooting spree. “He didn’t say anything,” Marquez told KTVU, describing how the shooter began loading what looked like a ammunition clip into his weapon. “He was very quiet. If we would have said a word, he would have shot us.”
Leslie Andres, 12, was shot in the leg by the Gilroy Garlic Festival gunman, her older sister, Yasmin Medellin said on her way to visit her at Valley Medical Center in Monday. “The bullet went in and out,” she said and is expected to be released Tuesday. “We tried asking her what happened but she’s not saying much,” said Medellin, who was with a large group of family members at the festival yesterday. “
One festival-goer told the Gilroy Dispatch that he saw the shooter dead with his hands handcuffed behind his back near the slide in the Kids Play area.
“I saw them carrying kids out, ladies shot,” said the man, who did not give his name.
In a statement, the event’s organizers said the “Gilroy Garlic Festival Association and the entire community of Gilroy are devastated by the shooting yesterday afternoon on the last day of the Gilroy Garlic Festival. Our hearts go out to the victims, their families, and everyone affected by this horrific event.”
At a press conference Sunday evening, Brian Bowe, the festival’s executive director, described Gilroy as “an amazing, tightly-knit community. We are family. We have had the wonderful opportunity in this community to celebrate our family through our Garlic Festival, and for over four decades that festival has been our annual family reunion. It’s such a sad, just horribly upsetting circumstance that this happened on the third and final day of this year’s festival.
Andrew Sanchez, 19, lives in the house behind the suspect’s house in Gilroy and said he can see their yard from his. He told this newspaper that while he didn’t know the man or his family, the home seemed quiet. “Thankfully we went to see a baseball game” in Sunday, Sanchez said. “Otherwise we most likely would’ve been” at the festival. “It hurts,” he said of the shootings, adding that his mother was still very shaken.
“She’s very scared,” he said. “It makes everyone sick.”
Sanchez said he thinks that despite the tragedy, the “festival will come back and be bigger than ever. The garlic festival means so much to so many people.”
News of the shooting, and particularly the death of a child, shocked a nation that has been dealing with mass shootings on an almost regular basis in recent years. Social-media outlets filled with reaction, not just condolences to those who lost loved ones in the attack, but also praise for the police officers who quickly stopped the attack as well as political commentary from both sides on gun violence and how to stem it.
“Yet another public event designed to bring people together has been destroyed by gunfire, claiming innocent lives and changing families and a community forever,” said Violence Policy Center Executive Director Josh Sugarmann in a statement. “The shooter, reportedly dressed in military garb and carrying an assault-type rifle, is the result of a gun industry that embraces militarization and heightened lethality in the design, production, and marketing of its products. Until the gun industry is held fully accountable for its dangerous actions, these horrific attacks will continue unabated.”
Several presidential candidates spoke out about the shooting, a tragedy that could be discussed in this week’s Democratic debate on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
We’re still waiting on all the details from Gilroy, but my heart is already breaking for the victims and their families and the survivors. The gun violence epidemic in this country is out of control. Please be safe and take care of one another. https://t.co/lrOA0gh6VD
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) July 29, 2019
Staff writers Robert Salonga, Joseph Geha, Leo Casta, Emily Deruy, Maggie Angst and Thy Vo also contributed to this report.
All credit goes to Patrick May, Erin Woo, Julia Sulek
Originally published on https://www.dailynews.com