About Town, Week of July 29


August 1, 2019: 

Tarmo Hannula: Downtown Watsonville is rapidly transforming into a massive staging area for a wave of family fun as the 25th annual Watsonville Strawberry Festival is about to open up. Carnival rides are being sprinkled across Main and Maple streets as a crew is spreading a load of hay bales around the plaza for seating. A new main stage is in place for entertainment in front of the historic bandstand and paint lines on streets surrounding the plaza are in place for a host of vendors, food stands and more.

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Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian The Watsonville Certified farmer's market is in full swing Friday afternoon.

Two women who suffered gunshot wounds at Sunday’s Gilroy Garlic Festival have come forward to talk of their horrific experiences of how their afternoon of food and fun turned into a gunfire nightmare.

Brynn Ota-Matthews and Gabriella Gaus told news reporters that they are still “trying to process” the ordeal. The pair was working their way up onto an inflatable slide when the first shots rang out and Gaus turned and spotted Santino William Legano, 19, armed with a gun. Gaus said she recalls seeing police officer charging into the shooting scene.

Gaus, of Scotts Valley, said, “We ran out of there and people were ushering toward a parking lot. We ran to the parking lot together and got and into a golf cart.”

Gaus said people then helped both women into another vehicle.

That’s when a man, who Gaus said was named John, told the, “Get in, I’ll take you to the hospital.”

We are just so lucky,” Gaus said. “The staff at the hospital were so helpful and so attentive. Our hearts go out to those who are not here to share with us their stories.”

Ota-Matthews told the media, “I’m just so happy to be alive. I was given the best treatment I could hope for.”

While Gaus said a bullet grazed her left rear shoulder and back, Ota-Matthews of Santa Cruz said a bullet fragment grazed her lung, entered her liver and punctured her diaphragm.

“I'm going to have a bullet in my liver for my whole life,” Ota-Matthews said. But, she added, doctors have told her the liver is the best organ because it heals so quickly.'

Meanwhile, in a bizarre twist, the San Jose Police Department announced it was holding a rifle raffle. For $20 the public was offered a chance Friday to can buy a ticket in hopes of winning a Ruger PC Carbine 9mm semi-auto rifle.” The raffle was slated as a fundraiser for the police union. However, it was canceled Friday, when San Jose’s former police auditor said it was in poor taste following Sunday’s shooting.

August 1, 2019: 

Tarmo Hannula: Today is the first day of August. August is the eighth month of the year in the Gregorian calendar and its predecessor, the Julian calendar. The month of August was originally named Sextilis in Latin but was changed to August in honor of Augustus Caesar in 8 BCE. As an adjective, august means respected and impressive, such as, "She was in august company."

Meteorologists say cooler than normal temperatures will continue to spread along the coast today with on-again-off-again low clouds and light drizzle. Friday will have patchy fog before 8 a.m. Otherwise, it will be mostly sunny, with a high near 73 degrees. Similar conditions will prevail over the weekend during the Strawberry Festival with morning low clouds and highs both days in the lower 70s.

A work crew was busy Thursday morning building a stage in the Plaza for various performers in the Watsonville Strawberry Festival, which gets going Friday. Motorists beware that some road closures will go into effect starting tonight around Watsonville Plaza to make way for set-up operations

The Mill Fire in Big Sur has grown to more than 300 acres and is only 10 percent contained as of Thursday morning. The fire got going Tuesday on Nacimiento-Fergusson Road about four miles above Highway 1 and was reported to be 10 acres and spreading slowly through steep terrain and heavy fuels. On Wednesday night the blaze charged past a retardant line established by air support. Officials had to close Nacimiento-Fergusson Road to make way for fire equipment to move freely on the road. One injury has been reported. Close to 500 resources are currently working the fire.

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Shots were fired but no one was injured in some form of dispute Wednesday afternoon in downtown Santa Cruz Police spokeswoman Joyce Blaschke said that around 4 p.m. police got calls about several shots being fired in a parking lot adjacent to the Santa Cruz METRO Center on the 900 block of Pacific Avenue, the main business street of the downtown district. Blaschke said a handgun was recovered near the scene. Both the suspect shooter and the victim fled the scene. An unoccupied parked vehicle was struck multiple times, and multiple shell casings were found at the scene. No suspects have been located. Anyone with information or who may have witnessed the shooting is asked to contact investigators at 420-5820.

July 31, 2019: 

Tarmo Hannula: If you heard a big blast of sirens around 3:20 p.m. Wednesday around Union and Beach streets it was nothing. Someone called 911 to report smoke pouring out of a building on the 400 block of Main Street. Several fire engines a few trucks, a Battalion Chief and Watsonville Police responded to what turned out to be incense burning inside the Star Holistic Center. I spoke with a worker there who said thy burn incense there all the time and was alarmed by the response.

More details are emerging from the mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting on Sunday that left three people dead and several others injured. It turns out police discovered a sack of ammunition in Uvas Creek near the shooting scene. They also found a shotgun and more ammo in the suspect’s car parked nearby.

On Monday I spoke with Larry Scettrini, who lives next door to the shooting suspect, Santino Legan, 19. He described the family as good neighbors and the parents as “hardworking." Larry said they had some form of workout area set up in the garage, like amini0gym and that the suspect’s brother was into boxing. A retired mental health worker, Scettrini said he was angry with Congress for “not doing anything with gun control.”

“I feel bad for the victims,” he said. “It makes you ask if something could have been done if some form of intervention could have prevented this. I know from experience that in many cases, the sooner the better is what works for intervention.”

Scettrini said he never noticed anything and Legan of his family that raised concern.

“The place was packed with police Sunday night,” he said. “They really went through the house.”

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Jesus Morales (left), the lead singer for the popular Mexican musical group, K-paz de la Sierra, woos the crowd from the main stage during hte 2012 Watsonville Strawberry Festival. (Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian file) 

Carnival rides are starting to arrive in downtown Watsonville in preparation for the 25th annual Watsonville Strawberry Festival that runs Friday through Sunday.

Honoring its 25th anniversary, a special Friday Night Kick-off Party will offer $2 tickets on all rides at the festival’s carnival between 5:30-9:30 p.m., with live music and a gathering spot at Romo Field across Main Street from the plaza, said Recreation Supervisor Israel Tirado.

“We want to invite everyone to come down and make this a special year,” he said. “We hope to try to deliver something special.” This year will also feature the Strawberry Jam Fun Run put on by the non-profit Friends of Parks and Community Services. The event starts at Ramsay Park Saturday at 7:45 a.m. with a 1k run for kids, said board member Alfonso Lobato. Then at 8 a.m. the adult 5K run begins. Lobato said both races wrap around several area sloughs and winds up back at Ramsay Park.

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July 30, 2019: 

Tarmo Hannula: I stopped by Hidden Fortress Coffee Roasting (125 Hangar Way, Suite 270) in the Strawberry Business Plaza Monday for a coffee. I got to chatting with the barista, Jaylin Piñon, who said she was having a hard time dealing with the shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival Sunday. She said her family is from Gilroy, and that she was at the festival Sunday and had left an hour before the shooting.

“My best friend was volunteering at a food tent when the shooting started,” she said. “She told me she heard the gunfire. But she is okay. I’m so glad she is. I just don’t understand what people are thinking. What makes this man wake up one morning and think he is entitled to go and kill people?
Hidden Fortress started roasting coffee in 2012. With several locations, they opened in Watsonville three years ago and offer a wide range of organic coffee drinks, cold drinks, pastries and sandwiches for breakfast and lunch. Owner Amelia Loftun said her business also offers fresh coffee through mobile coffee servers at four farmers markets. She will also open a new Hidden Fortress coffee at the Watsonville Cabrillo College Center next month.

“We offer for and drinks for both sit down and for people on the go,” Amelia said. All our drinks are organic like our milk products. Little by little people are learning of our location and we get a lot of regulars here. It’s a pleasant to come and take a break and refresh and take something out.”

Volker Haag is part owner of Go Jump, a sky diving business at the nearby Watsonville Municipal Airport. He stopped by for a coffee and snack at Hidden Fortress.

“Be sure and try their frittata bowls — they’re excellent!” he said. “They have great coffee and great food.” Go Jump invites the public to get a taste of leaping out of an airplane at 10,000 feet after lifting off from the Watsonville Municipal Airport. Haag said he recently merged with two sky diving urines, one in Oceanside and the other in Las Vegas, and thus changed his business name to Go Jump.

Police continue their investigation of the mass shooting that left three people dead and many others injured Sunday at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. Police ask anyone with information or videos of the shooter or the incident is asked to call 408-846-0583. Police said Santino William Legan used a handgun and an AK-47 assault-style rifle and was wearing tactical tactical gear, including a bulletproof vest.

Meanwhile two Walmart employees were shot and killed and a police officer was injured early Tuesday in Mississippi. The shooter, Martez Abram, was shot by an officer and hospitalized. He has been charged with two counts of murder. The incident took place in Southaven, about 13 miles south of Memphis, at about 6:30 a.m., police said. A fire inside the store was also reported at the store. Though the injured officer was struck by a bullet he was saved by his bulletproof vest.

AT 30 new stage

The new performance stage, built over the last few weeks in Watsonville Plaza, was put to the test for the first time Thursday when the Santa Cruz band, Beach Street, performed Thursday at 6 p.m. The five-piece band, with a female vocalist, delivered their blend of popular dance-style music. The event is part of the city’s Music in the Plaza series.

July 29, 2019: 

Tarmo Hannula: Three people died and a gunman was shot and killed by police Sunday at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. Around 5:40 p.m. the suspect, Santino William Legan, 19, reportedly open fire and unleashed numerous bursts of gunfire before Gilroy police gunned him down. Among the dead was Steven Romero, 6.

Witnesses told police that the shooter was armed with an assault-style rifle with an extended magazine and was dressed in military fatigues. including Steven Romero 6-year-old boy killed.
Gilroy Police Chief Scott Smithee said police are continuing to search for a possible second gunman. He said Legan appeared to have cut through a metal fence to gain entrance into the event, which was the final day of the three day, family-oriented festival that brings together a culinary celebration of the area’s plentiful bounty of garlic, live music, games, and fun.

About 16,000 runners took part in the 47th annual Wharf to Wharf race Sunday between Santa Cruz and Capitola. Anthony Rotich charged across the finish line first in the men’s divine at 27:32 while Vicoty Chepngeno topped the women’s group at 30:03. Each claimed $4,000 in prize money.

Quote of the day: “I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.” — Oscar Wilde

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To view last week's About Town, visit https://www.register-pajaronian.com/article/about-town-week-of-july-22

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