America’s epidemic of mass shootings erupted again on Sunday at a family-friendly festival in California, where police say three people, including a 6-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl, were fatally shot and 12 others were injured after a suspected gunman cut through a security fence and randomly opened fire.
“This is nothing short of horrific,” tweeted California Gov. Gavin Newsom after the attack on the closing day of the Gilroy Garlic Festival, about 30 miles southeast of San Jose in Gilroy. The state’s junior U.S. senator, Democrat Kamala Harris, decried “a gun violence epidemic that we cannot tolerate.”
Authorities identified the shooter as 19-year-old Santino William Legan, who was killed by police within a minute of the shooting’s start at about 5:40 p.m., Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said at a news conference.
“There absolutely would have been more bloodshed with the number of people in the small area where they were in,” he said Monday. “It was very fortunate they were able to engage him when they did.”
The shooter, who is originally from Gilroy, fired an AK-47-type assault rifle after cutting through secure fencing to enter the gated festival grounds in Christmas Hill Park, which attendees otherwise entered by passing through security checks and being waved by metal detector wands, said Smithee.
Records revealed the gunman had purchased the weapon legally in Nevada on July 9, he said.
A search continued Monday for a possible accomplice spotted by witnesses, although Smithee told reporters that it remains unclear what role that person may have played. “We have got multiple reports that there may have been someone else with him,” he said. “We really don’t know at this point.”
Those who were killed:
A 6-year-old recent kindergarten graduate who excitedly looked ahead to the start of first grade, Stephen Romero was at the festival with his mother and maternal grandmother. He was playing in an inflated bounce house when the shooting broke out, his father Alberto Romero told the Mercury News.
He was struck in the back, and later died at an hospital. His mother and grandmother were injured.
“He was joyful, always wanted to play, always positive,” his father told the newspaper. “My son had his whole life to live and he was only 6,” he added in an interview with NBC Bay Area.
Stephen’s paternal grandmother, Maribel Romero, told ABC7 News that he was a “loving boy,” adding that he was “always kind, happy and, you know, playful.”
“I just hope there is justice and they catch the last person or the other person and that there’s justice,” she said. “I want justice for my grandson.”
The 25-year-old Keuka College graduate from Romulus, New York, was attending the festival with his girlfriend, Sarah Warner, another former student of the liberal arts school in New York, according to a statement circulated among the college community by college President Amy Storey, reports Syracuse TV station WSTM.
“It is with profound sadness that I share the devastating news that a member of the Keuka College family was among the victims of the mass shooting over the weekend in California,” wrote Storey.
“The College community today mourns Trevor Irby, a biology major who graduated in 2017. Our hearts go out to Trevor’s family and loved ones. 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.”
The statement continued: “We also send sincere condolences to College alumna Sarah Warner, who was with Trevor at the California garlic festival where the shooting took place. We were relieved to learn that Sarah was not physically injured in the shooting. We offer our support and prayers to Sarah and her family. ”
On Monday, the Santa Clara County Coroner’s Office released the name of the third Gilroy shooting victim as 13-year-old Keyla Salazar, reports KRON.
The Associated Press, citing the girl’s aunt, Katiuska Pimentel Vargas, reports that the San Jose girl was eating ice cream with family members when the shooting began, and while others fled, Keyla stayed behind with a relative who uses a cane. She was shot by a bullet that otherwise might have struck the relative, said Vargas.
“I have to words to describe this pain I’m feeling,” Vargas wrote on Facebook.
A GoFundMe has been set up to support the San Jose girl’s family.