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Community reels after deadly mass shooting

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Hydrargyrum on Wikimedia C
Seal of the City of Gilroy, Calif. mounted on the wall in the City Council Chamber behind the dais.

The city of Gilroy is reeling from a mass shooting on Sunday at the annual Garlic Festival — an event known for being family-friendly. Three people died — 6-year-old Stephen Romero, a 13-year-old girl and a man in his 20s — and 12 others were injured in the shooting, which was reported around 5:40 p.m. just as the three-day festival was closing.

Firl Armendariz, a Gilroy native, said:

“It’s surreal, you would never think anything like this would happen in our little town.”

Armendariz’s 21-year-old cousin suffered a gunshot wound not considered life-threatening.

According to Genesis Canizal, she was attending the festival with her family on Sunday when she heard loud noises.

Canizal said:

“We thought we heard fireworks.”

“Then everybody started running toward us.”

Canizal and her family were able to escape the area uninjured. Police believe the shooter cut through fencing along a nearby creek to get into the festival. Once he began shooting, officers were able to quickly respond and fatally shoot the gunman.

He’s been identified as 19-year-old Santino William Legan. Police are also working to determine whether witness accounts of a second suspect are true.

Up to 100,000 attendees were expected at this year’s festival, now in its 41st year, and more than 4,000 volunteers participated in putting it together.

Armendariz said:

“This whole community volunteers their time. It’s a tradition here and all of the sudden this happens? It’s shocking.”

Canizal said:

“We’re from Gilroy. This is the kind of thing we look forward to every year … I still can’t believe it.”

Organizers said on Monday they’re “devastated” by the shooting. In a statement, officials with the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association said:

“Our hearts go out to the victims, their families and everyone affected by this horrific event. We are offering any and all resources available to support our community and law enforcement. We ask for your prayers and understanding at this incredibly difficult time.”

According to a GoFundMe account set up for Wendy Towner and her husband Francisco, vendors at the festival, the gunman shot at them after they witnessed him climbing the festival’s fence.

The post on the GoFundMe account read that as Wendy saw him climb the fence with a gun:

“Wendy told the gunman, ‘No you can’t do that!” With that comment, all his attention went toward her booth. He opened fire on them, hitting both her and her husband.”

The page can be found at
https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-gilroy-garlic-survivors-quotthe-honey-ladiesquot. San Jose City Councilwoman Maya Esparza said in a Facebook post that the 6-year-old victim Stephen was her cousin.

In the post, Esparza said:

“This violence has to stop. How do some people have such little regard for life.”

A GoFundMe page started by the South County Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram car dealership on behalf of Romero’s family had raised nearly $14,000 as of midday Monday. The fundraising page can be found at
https://www.gofundme.com/f/stephen-romero.

The Diocese of San Jose will hold a prayer vigil for the victims at 7 p.m. Monday at St. Mary’s Parish, located at 11 First St. in Gilroy.

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