NOTE: This story was written over this week by a long list of reporters from the Gilroy Dispatch and The Pajaronian:
Michael Moore, Scott Forstner, Jaqueline McCool, Erik Chalhoub, Jennifer Wadsworth, Todd Guild, Tarmo Hannula
GILROY — A gunman at the Gilroy Garlic Festival killed a 6-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl and a 25-year-old man as the three-day food festival wrapped up for the weekend Sunday evening, July 28, according to police.
Watsonville resident Javier Velasquez said he was at the festival when the shooting began.
“I heard the shots and saw a bunch of people running and screaming,” he said. “So I grabbed my kids and hide with them next to a booth.
We are all ok, thank God. But it was the most scared I have ever been. I thought we were going to die.”
The youngest casualty was Stephen Romero of San Jose, whose father posted a link to a GoFundMe page on social media after the shooting.
South County Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram also set up a fundraising page for Romero and the female teen victim, identified July 29 as Keyla Salazar, also from San Jose. Funds raised will be sent to the families of both victims, according to the page at gofundme.com.
The third fatality was identified later in the day as Trevor Irby, 25, of Romulus, NY. He was visiting the festival with his girlfriend from California, who was not injured.
Twelve other people suffered gunshot injuries at the festival in Christmas Hill Park; all required treatment at area hospitals.
Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee identified the gunman as 19-year-old Gilroyan Santino William Legan.
The chief said investigators did not know the suspect’s motive, which continues to be a subject of the ongoing investigation that has kept the park off limits to the public since Sunday night.
After initial reports of a second suspect prompted an extensive manhunt along Uvas Creek and in several Gilroy neighborhoods Sunday evening, police early this week could not confirm that anyone other than Legan was involved in the shooting, Smithee said. However, the chief said July 30 that the more the incident is investigated, the more police believe that Legan acted alone.
Also at a July 30 press conference, Smithee confirmed that investigators at Christmas Hill Park found a bag containing more ammunition in nearby Uvas Creek.
Smithee praised the actions of Gilroy police officers on duty at the Garlic Festival, who quickly responded to the reports of gunfire at about 5:40pm on Sunday. He said three officers confronted the suspect as he returned fire at the police, and shot and killed the gunman within a minute of reports of the initial gunshots.
Quick shooting saved lives
“There absolutely would have been more bloodshed” if the officers had not subdued Legan when they did, Smithee said.
The three officers who shot Legan are currently on administrative leave while the police department and Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office investigate their use of their firearms in the line of duty, Smithee said July 30. The chief has not named the three officers, but said all are veterans of the local department.
Police believe the shooter bypassed security and entered the festival by cutting a hole in a perimeter fence surrounding the city park that has been site of the festival for more than four decades, Smithee said Sunday night. The chief said Legan used an “assault-type rifle” similar to an SKS to shoot the victims. Legan purchased the firearm legally in Nevada on July 9, Smithee said.
In the days after the shooting, police served search warrants on Legan’s Gilroy home, his vehicle and a residence he was associated with in Nevada, according to authorities. Found in his vehicle, which was parked on Laurel Drive on the northeast edge of the festival site, was a shotgun.
Police think Legan also purchased this shotgun in Nevada.
Legan reportedly attended Monte Vista Christian School for his freshman through junior years, and graduated from Gilroy High School. According to information posted to the school’s web site, a Santino attended Mount Madonna in middle school. There, he acted in the school’s Ramayana play, playing the role of demon in the eighth grade.
A spokeswoman for Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose said one of the shooting victims died at Saint Louise Regional Hospital in Gilroy. Three shooting victims remained at Saint Louise in serious condition late Sunday night, while two other patients were transferred from the Gilroy hospital to Valley Med, according to the Valley Med spokeswoman.
In addition, five gunshot victims, ranging in condition from critical to fair, were transported directly to Valley Med from the scene.
The shooting scene at Christmas Hill Park remained off limits this week, secured by a perimeter of police officers. The FBI is assisting local police in investigating the shooting. Smithee said Gilroy Police Department accepted help from the federal authorities due to the size of the crime scene, which the FBI described as “several hundred acres.”
FBI agent Craig Fair of the bureau’s San Francisco division said more than 40 FBI evidence technicians were still at Christmas Hill Park Tuesday processing evidence. He expects the team will continue to process the scene for at least the rest of this week.
Watsonville Strawberry festival will go on
Watsonville Police Chief David Honda said that the festival will employ its usual fleet of patrol officers, and added that additional bike patrol will be there a well. In addition, Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s deputies will also be on hand for security, Honda said.
The festival, which opens Friday night, draws thousands of people to the open-streets event.
“I want to encourage you to come out with your families and with your friends to enjoy this community event,” Honda said in a video posted on Facebook. “Don’t let monsters like this dictate how we live our lives.”
Honda also encouraged anyone who sees something suspicious to report it to the police.
“Never forget that we are stronger together,” he said.
Watsonville Police Department spokeswoman Michelle Pulido said that increasing the number of patrol officers during the Strawberry Festival has been a standard practice for years.
Watsonville Parks and Community Services Director Nick Calubaquib said that Strawberry Festival staff train for active shooter incidents with WPD.
“We’re all definitely deeply saddened by the tragedy,” Calubaquib said. “It’s definitely something that’s put us on higher alert. Our hearts go out the people who were injured or killed.”
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk weighs in
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk spokesman Kris Reyes said that the world-famous attraction constantly trains its security staff for similar events.
“Safety has been our highest priority for many years,” he said.
According to Reyes, the boardwalk employs 60 safety officers during the peak summer season, who go through 120 hours of rigorous training that includes active training with local law enforcement.
The boardwalk security system also includes security cameras that monitor the boardwalk and surrounding properties 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, and plainclothes officers that patrol the park, Reyes said.
“Overall this is an area we take extremely seriously,” he said. “We take it as serious as the safety of the rides and as we take the enjoyment of the guests.”
“Our thoughts are with the folks affected in Gilroy, and it’s really unfortunate to see something like this so close to home.”
Chamber president helps victims
As of Monday morning, many survivors were still trying to figure out who made it out of the festival alive. On Facebook, hundreds of people began marking themselves as “safe” using the website’s emergency notification feature.
“But there’s a lot we don’t know right now,” said Mark Turner, president of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce.
Turner said he was standing by the amphitheater when the shots sounded, and he took off running—in the opposite direction of the fleeing crowds. “I thought my wife and daughter were in that area,” he said, “so I rushed toward the gunfire.”
As he charged toward the chaos, he grabbed as many people as he could to pull them into the Chamber’s beer trailer, he said.
“I helped two women who were shot,” Turner said. “A whole bunch of us were trying to help people who were shot and wounded, trying to load them in vehicles. I saw two people—a man and a woman—who appeared deceased. They were rushed out of there, and I don’t know what happened to them.”
Helping the victims
Flashbacks of the incident continued to replay in Turner’s head.
“You know, at times—I was telling my wife this earlier—it felt like what we were helping people in slow motion,” he said. “You see blood, then you’re just grabbing people and running them to safety, and of course, the most vivid scenes were the people who appeared to be critically wounded. I don’t know if they survived.”
Another recurring image: all the people who did what they could to help.
“As I was running around attending to others, so many other non-law enforcement volunteers at the festival were doing the very same thing, trying to help people get to cover,” Turner said. “I mean, talk about heroics. I saw so many people who were doing that. That instinct just kicks in and you think, ‘I’ve got to do something.’”
Safely at home with his family, Turner said he’s trying to stay hopeful.
“This is going to be a difficult thing to work through,” he said. “But I know we’ll come together and make this happen and figure out what we’re going to do next. I believe this can unite a community, and I believe it will unite ours.”
Videos posted to social media Sunday evening by festival attendees showed panicked crowds fleeing the area as gunshots rang out in the background.
Ambulances reportedly transported victims to Saint Louise Regional Hospital by about 7pm July 28. Authorities were requesting more ambulances from San Jose to assist with casualties.
Gilroy police tweeted at 7:22pm that those who were looking for loved ones who might have been involved in the shooting could go to a reunification center set up in a Gavilan College parking lot. The Gilroy Police Department also tweeted that witnesses to the shooting and those seeking to be reunited with family members could call (408) 846-0583.
“The hearts of Gilroy PD and the entire community go out to the victims of today’s shooting at the Garlic Festival,” reads the July 28 tweet from Gilroy police.
Greg Guglielmo, whose family winery in Morgan Hill has been supplying wine to the festival for 40 years, was on the ranch side by the vendor booths close to Gourmet Alley right before closing time at 6:45pm when he heard gunshots.
“It’s a very sad situation,” said Guglielmo, who at first thought the loud bangs were firecrackers. “This is such a great festival to be marred by something like this… I’ve never seen so many police cars in one place.”
Eyewitnesses describe scene
Like Guglielmo, other witnesses who were walking down Miller Avenue away from the festival grounds said they heard what they thought were firecrackers, and then people “started flipping out and running away.”
One festival-goer said he saw the shooter’s body with handcuffs behind his back near a kids’ slide.
“I saw them carrying kids out, ladies shot,” he said.
Naté Hines of Oakland said she was with her husband and godson eating at a picnic table under the giant tent when she heard gunshots in close proximity.
“My first thought was that it was firecrackers, but then I just saw people running. I grabbed them and we got out of there and to safety,” said Hines, as her family waited near Gilroy High School to be picked up and taken to their vehicle.
Hines said they were moved several times through the back of the park near the amphitheater, where she saw several victims being treated.
“We saw about four victims. They were wheeling them out and picking them up in trucks,” said Hines, a Garlic Festival lover who has attended for the past eight years.
Smithee said police, firefighters, paramedics and other emergency personnel from 20 agencies in the region responded to the mass shooting. The response included both air ambulances and ground ambulances.
Jordan Phillips of Hood River, Ore. said he was at the festival selling products for his company Columbia Black Garlic when the shooting began.
Reluctant to leave his product and cash behind, Phillips stayed with his booth and watched as the shooter fired into a crowd at a music event from about 50 feet away.
“(The shooter) was in the next aisle over, and about 50 feet away, shooting toward the music event,” Phillips said.
“I did see a lady about 20-25 feet away from me go down, and she got shot right in the stomach,” he said.
First responders responded within two minutes pulled her in and started performing CPR, he said.
“I really hope she made it,” he said. “I honestly have never been through anything this traumatizing before.”