FBI specialists and local authorities are still combing through the 50-plus acres of land that turned into a crime scene Sunday evening after a 19-year-old shooter killed three people and injured at least 12 others in Gilroy, California.
Sunday was the final day of the decades-old Gilroy Garlic Festival, a family-friendly celebration that brings nearly 100,000 people each year to the small city about 30 miles south of San Jose. As the firing started, many festival-goers thought the sounds were fireworks. Then, chaos.
Among the victims, 6-year-old Stephen Romero, 13-year-old Keyla Salazar and a recent college graduate, Trevor Irby.
“Maybe not today, but there will be a day when we start to heal, and the reason for that is we cannot let the bastard who did this to us tear us down,” Gilroy Mayor Roland Velasco told residents Monday.
The shooter, Santino William Legan, legally purchased the AK-47 style rifle he used in the attack on July 9 in Nevada, Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said. The weapon can’t be legally purchased or transported into California, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.
“I can’t put borders up … in a neighboring state where you can buy this damn stuff legally,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday morning, calling for action from Washington, DC. “I have no problem with the Second Amendment, you have a right to bear arms but not weapons of … mass destruction.”
Legan was seemingly firing at random, Smithee said. With thousands of people gathered in a small space, things “could have gotten so much worse so fast.”
“There absolutely would have been more bloodshed,” if it wasn’t for the officers who engaged with the suspect within less than a minute, Smithee said.
Authorities are trying to determine whether a bag of ammunition discovered in the park belonged to a shooter. They’re also searching for a second person who witnesses said may have been involved in the shooting. But on Monday, Smithee said other witness accounts gave differing versions of this person “so “we really don’t know at this point.”
Shooter referenced a white supremacist text
Legan entered the festival by using “some kind of a tool” to cut through a back fence and began firing, the chief said.
A freshly-created Instagram account with the shooter’s name posted two messages before the attacks, including a reference to a white supremacist text.
One post was a photo of people walking around the Garlic Festival with the words “Ayyy garlic festival time Come get wasted on overpriced sh**.” The other post, made about an hour later, showed a sign of Smokey Bear saying “Fire Danger High Today.”
“Read Might is Right by Ragnar Redbeard,” the caption said. “Why overcrowd towns and pave more open space to make room for hordes of mestizos and Silicon Valley white tw**s?”
A “mestizo” is a person of mixed descent, usually white and Hispanic, or white and American Indian. “Might is Right” is a book published in the late 1800s which has been described as a white supremacist text that promotes anarchy, vilifies Christianity and calls Jesus the “true Prince of Evil.” The natural order, according to the book, is a world at war in which the strong must vanquish the weak, and white men must rule over those of color.
He rented an apartment in Nevada
In April, Legan moved to an apartment in Walker Lake, Nevada, paid one month’s rent and moved out in the middle of the night a few days later.
When he left, the apartment looked untouched, said the unit’s property manager, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Legan had said he moved to the state for a job interview, but the manager says he got the impression Legan didn’t like the remoteness of the area.
“I thought he belonged to the big city,” he said. “He’s from Silicon Valley and hadn’t been out in the woods. …You’re going to move to Walker Lake and you’ve never been out in the woods?”
It’s not clear where Legan went after leaving the apartment.
The Mineral County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement that the FBI searched a residence on Monday in Walker Lake, Nevada, believed to have been used by the shooter in days leading up to the incident.
Police also searched the vehicle the shooter drove to the festival and a Gilroy residence associated with him, Smithee said.
Three young victims
Stephen Romero, 6, was killed during the shooting, Gilroy City Council member Fred M. Tovar told CNN.
Stephen’s father, Alberto Romero, told CNN affiliate the San Jose Mercury News newspaper that he was at home when his wife called to say she, her mother and their son had been shot at the annual festival.
“I couldn’t believe what was happening, that what she was saying was a lie, maybe I was dreaming,” he said.
There’s no words to describe the feeling, Stephen’s paternal grandmother, Maribel Romero, told CNN affiliate KRON.
“I don’t think this is fair,” she said.
Keyla, 13, of San Jose, was also killed, according to the Santa Clara County Office of the Medical Examiner — Coroner.
The third victim was 25-year-old Trevor Irby, a 2017 Keuka College graduate.
Irby was a biology major, school president Amy Storey said in a statement.
“We are shocked that this latest episode of senseless gun violence resulted in the loss of one of our recent graduates—graduates in whom we place so much hope because of their potential to create a brighter tomorrow,” Storey said.
Irby had recently moved to California from the upstate New York school to be with his fiancée, CNN affiliate WSYR said. The two were at the festival together when the shooter began firing, the affiliate said.
“Everybody was his friend, I don’t care if you met him two days ago, they’d become his friend. That’s how lovable he was,” Irby’s grandmother told the affiliate.
Gun shop owner: ‘We pray for the victims’
The shooter purchased his rifle from Big Mike’s Guns and Ammo in Fallon, Nevada, the business said on Facebook.
“I did not know this individual. He ordered the rifle off my internet page. When I did see him, he was acting happy and showed no reasons for concern. I would never ever sell any firearm to anyone who acted wrong or looks associated with any bad group like white power,” the post said.
CNN has reached out to law enforcement to confirm the gun shop’s statements. The store couldn’t be reached.
“We feel so very sorry for the Families, I am heartbroken this could ever happen,” the shop said in a Facebook post. “Good people have been hurt and this goes against everything I believe in.”
“We pray for the victims. My heart hurts for all of them.”
When it comes to the gunman, the business said on Facebook: “I hope you rot in hell.”