People look on from near the scene of a mass shooting during the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California, US, July 28, 2019. (Reuters)
GILROY, California – California police were searching on Monday for a suspected accomplice of the gunman who killed three people, including a 6-year-old boy, in a mass shooting at a food festival south of San Francisco.
The gunman was shot dead by police officers within minutes of opening fire early on Sunday evening at the three-day Gilroy Garlic Festival, about 30 miles (48 km) southeast of the city of San Jose.
He was identified as Santino William Legan, 19, according to CBS News and NBC News, both citing unnamed law enforcement officials. The Gilroy police department declined to confirm the reports but planned to hold a news briefing later on Monday morning.
Among those killed was a 6-year-old boy, according to news reports. Fifteen people were injured, but it was unclear how many were shot or otherwise hurt in the crush of bystanders trying to flee, according to police. One person was in critical condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.
President Donald Trump described the gunman as a “wicked murderer” and asked people to pray for the victims during an event at the White House.
“We grieve for their families, and we ask that God will comfort them with his overflowing mercy and grace,” he said.
A second suspect “was involved in some way, we just don’t know in what way,” Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said late on Sunday, without giving further details.
“We have no idea of a motive,” he said.
Police recovered a rifle at the scene, Smithee said.
The gunman cut through a fence to evade metal detectors and other security at the festival entrance, police said.
Legan, the teenager identified in news reports as the gunman, appeared to post a photograph from the festival on his Instagram account shortly before the shooting accompanied by disgruntled captions. The account only appeared to be a few days old, and was deactivated at some point on Monday morning.
“Ayyy garlic festival time,” he wrote in the caption to the picture of people walking through the festival grounds. “Come get wasted on overpriced s**t.”
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 late 19th century. “Why overcrowd towns and pave more open space to make room for hordes of mestizos and Silicon Valley white twats?” the caption continued.
Footage uploaded to social media showed festival attendees scattering in fear and confusion as loud popping sounds could be heard in the background.
“What’s going on?” a woman can be heard asking on one video. “Who’d shoot up a garlic festival?”
One of the victims was identified by his grandmother as Stephen Romero in an interview with ABC7 News. Maribel Romero described her 6-year-old grandson as “a really loving boy”.
Her daughter-in-law and the boy’s other grandmother were also being treated in a hospital for gunshot wounds, she said. “I want justice for my grandson,” she said.
Evenny Reyes, 13, told the San Jose Mercury News that at first she thought the gunfire was fireworks but then saw someone with a wounded leg.
“We were just leaving and we saw a guy with a bandana wrapped around his leg because he got shot,” Reyes told the newspaper. “There was a little kid hurt on the ground. People were throwing tables and cutting fences to get out.”
Maximo Rocha, a volunteer with the Gilroy Browns youth football team, said he saw many people on the ground, but could not be sure how many were shot.
He told NBC Bay Area that “quite a few” were injured, “because I helped a few”.
One video posted on Twitter showed a blood-spattered woman sitting in the back of a semi-trailer and telling a man she had been shot in the hand.
Founded in 1979, the Gilroy Garlic Festival is an annual event run by volunteers and held outdoors at Christmas Hill Park.
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.
“I want to express my extreme shock and sadness about what’s happened today,” Gilroy Mayor Roland Velasco said at a late night news conference. “I would ask for the thoughts and prayers of the community as our Gilroy police officers continue to investigate this tragic and senseless crime.” (Reuters)