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Fatal Shooting at Gilroy Garlic Festival Shocks Bay Area

The festival draws over 100,000 visitors each year for garlic ice cream, live entertainment, and family activities

US: Shooting breaks out in California garlic festival Photo by Neal Waters/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Attendees at the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival were sent running for cover after a gunman opened fire on the crowd on Sunday afternoon. Three people are dead, including six-year-old boy Stephen Romero, and another 12 are injured, according to the latest reports. The shooter, shot and killed by the police, has been identified as a Gilroy resident: 19-year-old Santino William Legan.

It was the last day of the three-day festival, which has celebrated all things garlic since it was founded in 1979. Since then it’s drawn crowds of over 100,000 to the small town in search of garlic fries, garlic ice cream, live music, and more. The festival has raised millions for local schools and other non-profits.

According to the Gilroy Police Department, the gunman was carrying an assault-type rifle, and entered the festival through a hole he’d cut in a fence. He was accompanied by a companion whose role in the shooting is not yet known says Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee; that companion has not been located, and no motive for the shooting has been identified.

Witnesses describe a chaotic scene as families and panicked attendees hit the ground or ran to safety in a barrage of gunfire that lasted roughly one minute. In addition to those wounded by gunfire, several people were injured in the melee as they scrambled to safety; many attendees sought shelter by knocking on the doors of nearby residences.

John Lee, a sound engineer, was at the Amphitheater Stage when the shooting began. “I heard a loud firework-like noises. After I realized it was gunshots, I hid under the stage and protected myself. At the amphitheater stage. Gunfire was closer to the Vineyard stage, which is opposite. Towards that area,” Lee told Eater. “I still felt like it was towards the center of the whole park. And then the main food alley, the Gourmet Alley, is where people were coming towards my side. At first I was near a cookoff stage where the cooking show was happening. The gunman was shooting toward the food vendor area.”

In a press conference, the festival’s executive director Brian Bowe told reporters that “Gilroy is an amazing, tightly-knit community. We are family. We have had the wonderful opportunity in this community to celebrate our family through our Garlic Festival, and for over four decades that festival has been our annual family reunion. It’s such a sad, just horribly upsetting circumstance that this happened on the third and final day of this year’s festival.”

The event draws celebrity chefs like Tom Colicchio, as well as fans from around the Bay Area. Liam Mayclem, host of KCBS’s Foodie Chap and a frequent emcee at food events, was scheduled to host, but canceled to attend a funeral in Washington, DC. Lawmakers, including Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, condemned the attack, calling for stricter gun control laws.

Festival organizers provided the following information:

If you are a witness with information about the shooting, please call the witness hotline at 408-846-0583. If you are seeking information about a loved one, please call the reunification hotline at 408-846-0584. A media line has also been established by the Gilroy Police Department at 408-842-0432.

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