Gilroy shooting: town grieves as police seek motive in attack that killed three

0
23

Gunman, 19, opened fire with assault-type rifle bought legally in Nevada before being shot and killed by police

A suburban community was left deeply shaken as authorities investigate the motive of a gunman who opened fire at a popular garlic festival in Gilroy, California, killing three people on Sunday afternoon.

A six-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl, and a man in his 20s were killed at the annual event, where visitors line up for garlic fries and ice cream amid sunshine and live music.

On Monday, authorities searched for answers as to why the 19-year-0ld shooter attacked the family-friendly festival. Craig Fair, the deputy special agent in charge at the FBI’s San Francisco office, said investigators were combing through the suspect’s social media profiles and investigating his history.

The suspect used an “assault-type rifle”, in the style of an AK-47, officials in the northern California town said – injuring at least 12 people and killing three people before being killed by police officers who rushed him within a minute of bullets being heard.

The shooting left local residents shaken. “Not in a million years can you believe this is happening,” Rosa Martinez-Ryan, who lived a block from the suspect’s family, told the Guardian. She described the focus of the summer garlic festival as: “Family, family, family.”

The three victims

On Monday it emerged that six-year-old Stephen Romero was among the victims. His grandmother, Maribel Romero, told KGO-TV that Stephen was a “loving boy” who was “always kind, happy and, you know, playful”.

Stephen’s father, Alberto Romero, said his son had been playing on a bouncy castle when the shooting happened. Alberto Romero was not at the festival, and learned Stephen had been shot when his wife called from the hospital.

“I couldn’t believe what was happening, that what she was saying was a lie, that maybe I was dreaming,” Alberto Romero told the San Jose Mercury News.

The other two victims were named on Monday as Keyla Salazar, 13, and Trevor Irby, 25.

The 13-year-old from San Jose died at the scene. In photos posted on her aunt’s Facebook page, Keyla is seen dressed in pink, wearing a tiara of flowers and smiling as she poses with relatives. “I have no words to describe this pain I’m feeling,” Katiuska Pimentel Vargas wrote. “Keyla you are an angel and we will miss you with all of our hearts. You were too young to be taken from us.”

Her aunt also says the teenager may have inadvertently saved another relative’s life. Keyla was eating ice cream with family members when they heard gunshots and began to flee. Vargas says her niece stayed back to keep pace with a relative who uses a cane and was shot with a bullet that otherwise might have hit that woman. Vargas says Keyla’s stepfather was wounded as he went back for her.

Twenty-five-year-old Irby was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan with a broad smile who majored in biology and graduated in 2017 from Keuka College in upstate New York, where he grew up.

He lived in the tiny town of Romulus, northwest of New York City. Dionna Williams, Irby’s aunt, posted a photo online of her grinning nephew wearing a graduation cap and gown.

“My nephew was one of the victims of the Gilroy Festival in California,” Williams wrote. “Please pray for our family. RIP Trevor.”

gilroy

19-year-old gunman identified

Police identified the shooter as 19-year-old Santino William Legan.

Several news organizations, including Reuters, reported that prior to the shooting Legan had apparently posted a photo from the garlic festival on his Instagram account. “Ayyy garlic festival time,” he wrote in the caption. “Come get wasted on overpriced shit.” Another post referenced a racist, sexist essay.

A second suspect was “involved in some way, we just don’t know in what way”, the Gilroy police chief, Scot Smithee, said at a late-night news conference on Sunday. On Monday, Smithee said that police were “no closer to determining whether there was or was not a second suspect and, if there was, what involvement they may have”.

California has some of the most stringent gun laws in the country, banning most assault weapons and .50-caliber rifles, as well as the sale, transfer, manufacture and possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines.

But on Monday afternoon at a press conference, police chief Smithee said Legan had bought the rifle legally in the neighboring state of Nevada on 9 July.

Big Mikes Gun and Ammo, the store in Nevada where the gunman reportedly purchased his weapon, posted a statement on Facebook condemning the attack and offering condolences to the victims. It also said the shooter had purchased the weapon from the store’s website.

A
A sign advertising the Gilroy Garlic Festival, a popular event in California. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Neighbors described the Legan family as a married couple who had raised the shooter and his brother in the house being searched, and said they were “very nice people” and “very devoted parents” who had moved to the block nearly 20 years ago.

Elia Scettrini, 65, said she had seen Tom, the father, spending time and playing with his sons, including training with them in their boxing gym they had set up in the garage.

“Usually kids are alone. These kids were not alone,” she said.

Before his retirement, Larry Scettrini, who had worked as a licensed therapist in the local juvenile justice system, said he had seen no signs that either of the boys were troubled.

He said: “Not even a whisper about arms or politics, or any of the issues that would be normally discussed if you had an anger issue or a problem with society.”

He went on: “Gilroy is very conservative on gun rights issues. Gun rights people say if you have more guns, there’ll be less violence. There were plenty of police present at the festival, and that didn’t prevent the violence.”

Police
Police in Gilroy on Monday. Photograph: Noah Berger/AP

Smithee said on Monday that it was too early in the investigation to determine if any of the victims were targeted, or if the shooter fired indiscriminately.

Founded in 1979, the Gilroy garlic festival revolves around the region’s celebrated crop, and features garlic-inspired foods, drink, live entertainment and cooking competitions. It is hosted by volunteers and describes itself as the world’s greatest summer food festival.

A few hours before the shooting, festivalgoers were still showing up by the busload, milling around Christmas Hill Park under a hot sun and amid the scent of garlic.

Parents fed their toddlers bites of garlic ice cream as families lounged under the shade of the trees, fanning themselves in the heat. Women danced to live music while others munched on garlic fries, garlic pasta, garlic bread and garlic shrimp.

Videos posted on social media appeared to show attendees scattering in confusion as at least one loud popping sound 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?”

Politicians respond

Donald Trump responded on Sunday night with a tweet advising people in the area to “be careful and safe”. The US president was initially silent about the shooting on Monday, instead resuming his Twitter attacks, begun over the weekend, against the senior Democratic congressman Elijah Cummings. He had called Cummings’ home city of Baltimore “rat-infested”, in an affront critics said was bigoted and racist.

Later on Monday morning, at the White House, Trump said: “We express our deepest sadness and sorrow for the families who lost precious loved ones.” He called the shooting horrific and the gunman a “wicked murderer”.

Play Video
1:46

Gilroy shooting: four dead after gunman attacks food festival – video report

Political reactions, including calls for gun reform, followed swiftly in the wake of the attack. “My heart breaks for all of our Bay Area neighbors who attended the Gilroy garlic festival,” tweeted the California congressman Eric Swalwell, who campaigned briefly for the Democratic 2020 presidential nomination and was the only one of two dozen candidates to focus his platform primarily on stronger gun control. “We need gun reform and we need it now,” he said.

The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence ranks California first in the nation for its laws. It was unclear on Monday where or how the suspect acquired the assault-style rifle used in the attack.

Senator Kamala Harris, who represents California and is running for president, tweeted: “I’m grateful to the first responders who are on the scene in Gilroy, and my thoughts are with that community tonight. Our country has a gun violence epidemic that we cannot tolerate.”

House speaker Nancy Pelosi, who represents San Francisco, tweeted: “Our thoughts are with the families of those lost last night in Gilroy, CA, as well as the survivors facing a tough road ahead.

“But thoughts are not enough – action must be taken to end gun violence. Every day the Senate refuses to act is a stain on the conscience of our nation.”

Another US lawmaker, congressman Dan Lipinski of Illinois, was at the festival with his wife when the shooting took place. “The shooter was not far from us when we heard the loud ‘pops’, which seemed to get closer as we ran,” he said in a statement on Monday.

“The level of gun violence in our nation is sickening. It is an issue we must deal with not only legislatively, but spiritually and socially.”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here