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.”
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.”
Los Altos resident Troy Towner started a GoFundMe page for his sister, Wendy, who along with her husband, Francisco Aguilera, was wounded by the shooter’s gunfire. On the website, Towner said his sister was out of surgery “but will have long term nerve and muscle damage to her leg. Her husband had more severe damage to his femoral artery,” but “with many surgeries and amazing doctors we have some good results. It will be a long road ahead in PT, skin grafts and plastic surgery for both.”
— NBC Bay Area (@nbcbayarea) July 29, 2019
He shared how he sister described the attack this way: “A man was climbing over the fence in the last hour of a 3 day HOT Garlic festival. My sister, her husband and son were sitting down to catch their breath after a long weekend. She was at the festival selling Habanero and Garlic Honey for her business, The Honey Ladies. Wendy, told the gunman, ‘No, you can’t do that!’ as she saw him climb the fence with a gun.”
He said the man “opened fire on them, hitting both her and her husband. Their 3 year old son was dragged under the table by a brave 10year old girl, that probably saved his life,” Towner wrote. “He wanted to run to Mommy and Daddy. The shooter then approached closer, and said ‘are you alright?”‘
He said they both pretended to be dead “and did not respond, as he probably would have finished the job. He then turned and continued on to the next group of people. A 6 year old boy was nearby and next.”
He said his sister Wendy was shot once in the leg while her husband sustained bullet wounds to his shoulder, femoral artery and lower leg.
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.
I'm live outside of the suspected shooter, Santino William Legan's family home on Churchill Place in #Gilroy. Neighbors say this family is upstanding and shocked he would open fire at the #GilroyGarlicFestival. Details on @kron4news pic.twitter.com/8DXu7werkh
— Sara Stinson (@SaraStinsonNews) July 29, 2019
Staff writers Robert Salonga, Joseph Geha, Leo Casta, Emily Deruy, Maggie Angst and Thy Vo also contributed to this report.
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