Police ID Gilroy Garlic Festival shooter as Santino William Legan; victims include 2 children
The man believed to have opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival on Sunday, killing 3 and wounding 12, was identified by a law enforcement source as Santino William Legan, 19, of Gilroy.
Legan was fatally shot by police Sunday after the mass shooting at the popular food festival in Santa Clara County. A 6-year-old boy, 13-year-old girl and a man in his 20s were killed, said Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee. The gun used in the attack was purchased legally in Nevada on July 9, he said.
Authorities on Monday searched a house on Churchill Place owned by Legan’s family but were still trying to determine a motive. The source, who spoke to the Los Angeles Times on the condition of anonymity, said detectives were investigating Legan’s background and statements he had made on social media.
Legan’s grandfather, Thomas Legan, was a Santa Clara County supervisor before his death last year, according to his obituary.
In the hours before the shooting, Legan posted a photo on his Instagram profile, which has since been deleted, of what appeared to be the Gilroy Garlic Festival with the caption: “Ayyy garlic festival time come get wasted on overpriced ….”
He also posted a photo of a Smokey Bear sign warning about fire danger with a caption that instructed people to read the novel “Might Is Right” by Ragnar Redbeard. The book, published in 1890, includes principles related to Social Darwinism and is described as including misogynistic and racist ideas.
Roughly a dozen law enforcement agencies have been involved in the investigation and had worked through the night, said San Jose Fire Department Capt. Mitch Matlow.
Early Monday, officers emerged from the Legan family’s two-story house, situated in the middle of a cul-de-sac lined with stucco homes, carrying several paper bags. Other investigators searched a dusty blue Nissan parked outside the home.
Two cats roamed around the house as authorities worked. Neighbors peered out of their windows to watch the spectacle. Some stepped outside to check out the police cruisers and news crews that had descended on their quiet neighborhood.
Neighbor Kawika Palacios, 29, says the Legan family has lived in the neighborhood for more than 18 years and mostly has kept to themselves. Santino Legan, who is one of three offspring, was sometimes seen outside with his siblings boxing with their father, Palacios said.
Andrew Sanchez’s stepfather was in the backyard Sunday night, feeding the cats, when he heard, “Gilroy police — open up!” Sanchez, a 19-year-old college student, said he saw police swarm with flashlights into the backyard that abuts his family’s property.
Sanchez said his family had had just one encounter with the Legan family. The day his family moved in, Sanchez said, a truck driven by someone who lived at the home had cut them off and then briefly pursued them. It was startling, and they’d since avoided them, he said.
It stung, Sanchez said, to see the festival — the pride of Gilroy, a draw for tourists and celebrity chefs, a boon to its small businesses, hotels and civic groups that use it to fundraise — become the site of another mass shooting. His family buys weekend passes every year. Sanchez attended on Friday; his mother, Saturday.
In this town of garlic pickers and Silicon Valley commuters, of agrarian poverty that is passed down by generations, the festival “is the one thing Gilroy has going,” Sanchez said.
“It hurts. It’s hurting everyone in Gilroy,” he said. “That festival means so much to us, and it will forever be tainted.”
Ernesto Mendoza, another neighbor, saw the caravan of police vehicles that streamed into the Gilroy cul-de-sac Sunday evening, not long after reports of a shooting at the nearby Garlic festival. Blaring from the vehicles’ loudspeakers was a message: Go inside and shut your doors.
Authorities cordoned off the mouth of the cul-de-sac until about 1 a.m., when the vehicles streamed out, he said.
Mendoza believed they were just making sure the neighborhood was safe — he often runs in the park where the festival is held, just a 30-minute jog from his home. It wasn’t until this morning, when reporters asked Mendoza what he knew of his neighbors, that he realized the shooter might have lived on his street.
“It’s terrible,” he said of the shooting. “How many years have they been doing that festival? It’s supposed to be very quiet.”
The popular food festival at the “Garlic Capital of the World” was about to close around 5:30 p.m. Sunday when at least one gunman opened fire.
Witnesses reported hearing multiple rounds fired by a man armed with a rifle and dressed in what looked like a tactical vest and camouflage fatigues. They said he fired more than a dozen times before pausing and then firing again into the crowd. Police initially said 15 people had been injured in the shooting, but officials lowered that number to 12 early Monday.
Smithee said late Sunday that witnesses reported a second man was somehow involved. On Monday morning, however, Smithee said there were no indications of another shooter. He said the gunman was able to circumvent the festival’s security by entering from a creek area and cutting through a fence.
In front of lines of orange cones, officers from a handful of police and sheriff’s departments on Monday morning directed cars away from streets that connected to Uvas Park Drive, the neighborhood thoroughfare that runs parallel to the creek in the Debell Uvas Creek Preserve.
At one intersection, a sheriff’s deputy holding an assault-style rifle said the area was blocked off because it connected to the creek bed. The creek runs along the southwestern edge of much of the city, through the campus of Gilroy High School as well as Christmas Hill Park, where the festival was held.
Videos from the shooting scene showed people screaming and running across the festival grounds as shots rang out around them. Some described the chaotic situation as the scariest moments of their lives.
Taylor Pellegrini, 25, said she was sitting on a bench near the food court at the festival with her boyfriend and two friends when she heard the sound of firecrackers. When the pops continued and people started running, she realized they were in danger.
“People were yelling, ‘Active shooter, active shooter!’ and some people tripped and stayed on the ground so bullets didn’t hit them,” she said. “People were under tables and dropping their phones and whatever they had in their hands.”
Vivian Zhang, 24, said she was walking toward the exit with two friends when she heard pops and crackles and then saw abrupt flashes of light. A truck they were standing next to was struck four times; bullets ricocheted off the ground.
That’s when they began running as fast as they could.
“They started putting all of us on the parking shuttles,” said Zhang, an Oakland resident. “To their credit, the volunteers running it were very responsive. They weren’t panicking.”
Everyone seemed disoriented, Zhang said. Parents grabbed their children as police ran into the crowd. “It’s a whole entire group feeling of sheer terror,” said Emily Gifford, Zhang’s 23-year-old friend.
As Zhang was running, she said, she remembered thinking, “I am surviving a mass shooting right now, but I’m not even sure if that will be true in a moment.”
Vielka Garrido, 48, was sitting with her friend and 19-year-old daughter, enjoying a San Jose classic rock band called TinMan as it played its last song at the festival.
She was streaming a live video on Facebook to show everyone how much fun they were having. They were eating seafood and spaghetti, and dancing.
“And then we hear boom, boom, boom,” Garrido said. “We thought it was fireworks, and then when we see the people running — oh, my God, it was terrible.”
The shots felt close to where they were sitting at the front of the stage. Her group started running too, finding refuge in a shipping container where many other festival-goers were hiding.
As she was running, she saw someone performing CPR on a small child.
Jack Van Breen, lead vocalist and guitarist for TinMan, told KGO-TV that the band was playing an encore when he heard a pop. He turned in the direction of the noise and saw a man “in a green top with a gray handkerchief kind of around his neck and what appeared to be an assault rifle.”
“He started shooting again in the direction of where all the food people were dining,” Van Breen said. He directed his band members to clear the stage, which they ducked beneath so they couldn’t be seen.
Van Breen said he heard someone shout: “Why are you doing this?” and the reply: “Because I’m really angry.”
Injured festival attendees were shuttled to three local hospitals, and in the chaos of the transfers, conflicting numbers of injured people emerged.
Seven patients were originally brought to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. They ranged in age from 12 to 69. One has been discharged, and one was transferred to Stanford Medical Center as of Monday morning. Of the five remaining, one patient was in critical condition, two were in serious condition, and two were in fair condition. One patient remained at St. Louise Regional Hospital.
Santa Clara hospital spokesperson Joy Alexiou said a total of 19 patients were originally brought in to the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and St. Louise Regional Hospital. Eleven of those patients had gunshot wounds, and eight had other injuries as a result of people fleeing the festival in the aftermath of the shooting. Two patients remained at Stanford.
Family members of 6-year-old Steven Romero of San Jose said the boy was killed in the shooting. The boy’s mother and grandmother, who were also at the festival, were injured.
The boy’s father, Alberto Romero, told the San Jose Mercury News that he was at home late Sunday afternoon when he received a panicked call from his wife saying that someone had shot their son in the back, and that she’d been shot in the stomach and hand and her mother in the leg.
“I couldn’t believe what was happening, that what she was saying was a lie, that maybe I was dreaming,” he said.
When he arrived at St. Louise Regional Hospital in Gilroy, hospital staff told him his son was in critical condition.
“They said they were working on him, and five minutes later they told me he was dead,” Romero told the newspaper. He said his son was joyful and always wanted to play.
Founded in 1979, the Gilroy Garlic Festival bills itself as “the world’s greatest summer food festival.” The three-day event, held at Christmas Hill Park in the town southeast of San Jose, is hosted by community volunteers and raises money for local schools, charities and nonprofit organizations.
The festival attracts tens of thousands of people every year to the town of 58,000.
“It is such a sad, just horribly upsetting, circumstance that this happened on the third and final day of the festival,” Brian Bowe, the executive director of the Gilroy Garlic Festival, said at a Sunday night news conference. “And to have seen this event end this way this day is just one of the most tragic and sad things I have ever had to see.”
The violence immediately prompted messages of support and mourning from public officials and a renewed call for sweeping gun control reforms.
“This is nothing short of horrific,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said. “Tonight, California stands with the Gilroy community.”
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton posted a photo of Steven Romero on Twitter and wrote: “America cannot go on like this. For the sake of our kids, we have to change.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti offered his condolences to the victims of the shooting late Sunday.
“It is devastating that families cannot enjoy a community festival without fear of gun violence,” he said. “We have a moral imperative to end this epidemic.”
Times staff writers Matthew Ormseth, Laura J. Nelson and Ruben Vives reported from Gilroy, Calif., and Hannah Fry and Richard Winton from Los Angeles. Staff writers Colleen Shalby, Jaclyn Cosgrove and Laura Newberry contributed to this report.