GILROY, Calif. (AP) — A shooter cut through a fence and opened fire on a crowd eating and listening to music at a popular food festival in California, killing three people, including a 6-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl, and injuring 12 others before police quickly shot him dead, authorities said.
Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said Santino William Legan, 19, appeared to randomly target people when he fired with a rifle Sunday afternoon, the end of the three-day Gilroy Garlic Festival that attracts more than 100,000 people to the city known as the “Garlic Capital of the World. He said Legan’s motive wasn’t known.
Police responded in less than a minute and Legan turned his “assault-type rifle” on the officers, Smithee said. Three officers fired back and killed Legan, who legally purchased the weapon in this month in Nevada.
The festival in the agricultural city of 50,000 about 80 miles (176 kilometers) southeast of San Francisco had security that required people to pass through metal detectors and have their bags searched. The shooter sneaked in through a fence that borders a parking lot next to a creek, the police chief said.
Some witnesses reported a second suspect, Smithee said, but it was unclear whether that person was armed or just helped in some way. A manhunt stretched into Monday.
Six-year-old Stephen Romero, 13-year-old girl and a man in his 20s were killed, officials and authorities said.
“My son had his whole life to live and he was only 6,” Alberto Romero told San Francisco Bay Area news station KNTV. “That’s all I can say.”
The boy’s grandmother, Maribel Romero, told Los Angeles station KABC-TV that she searched several hospitals before learning he had died. She said he was “always kind, happy and, you know, playful.”
The wounded were taken to multiple hospitals, and their conditions ranged from fair to critical, with some undergoing surgery. At least five were treated and released.
Police searched the two-story Gilroy home of the gunman’s family and a dusty car parked outside before leaving the house Monday less than a mile from the garlic festival with paper bags and what appeared to be other evidence.
A woman who lives across the street said Santino Legan had not lived there for at least a year, and SWAT officers came to the home Sunday night. Jan Dickson called the Legans “a nice, normal family.”
“How do you cope with this? They have to deal with the fact that their son did this terrible thing and that he died,” Dickson said.
The Gilroy Garlic Festival features food, cooking contests and music and is a decades-old staple in the city.
The band TinMan was starting an encore Sunday when the shooting started. Singer Jack van Breen said he saw a man wearing a green shirt and grayish handkerchief around his neck fire into the food area with what looked like an assault rifle. He and other members of the band dove under the stage.
Van Breen, from nearby Santa Clara, said he heard someone shout: “Why are you doing this?” The reply: “Because I’m really angry.”
The audience began screaming and running, and the five members of the band and others dove under the stage.
Bandmate Vlad Malinovsky said he heard a lot of shots and then it stopped. Later, law enforcement told those hiding to come out with their hands up.
Taylor Jackson was working at a booth drawing caricatures when she heard gunfire, saw people running and “ran for the hills.” She said her boss ran in the opposite direction. Several hours later, Jackson was at a reunification center trying to get information on her whereabouts.
Donna Carlson of Reno, Nevada, was helping a friend at a jewelry booth when “all of a sudden it was pop, pop, pop. And I said, ‘I sure hope that’s fireworks.'” She got on her hands and knees and hid behind a table until police told her it was safe to leave.
President Donald Trump condemned the “wicked murderer.”
“We express our deepest sadness and sorrow for the families who lost a precious loved one in the horrific shooting last night in Gilroy, California,” Trump said before an event at the White House.
In a tweet, California Gov. Gavin Newsom called the bloodshed “nothing short of horrific” and said he was grateful for the police response.
Video posted to social media showed people running in terror as shots rang out.
Evenny Reyes of Gilroy, 13, told the Mercury News in San Jose that she spent the day at the festival with her friends and relatives.
“We were just leaving and we saw a guy with a bandanna wrapped around his leg because he got shot. And there were people on the ground, crying,” Reyes said. “There was a little kid hurt on the ground. People were throwing tables and cutting fences to get out.”
Reyes said that she didn’t run at first because the gunshots sounded like fireworks.
“It started going for five minutes, maybe three. It was like the movies — everyone was crying, people were screaming,” she said.
Associated Press reporter Mike Balsamo contributed to this story from Washington.