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Sunday 18 August 2019

Boy, six, among those killed by gunman at California garlic festival

Three people were killed and at least 15 wounded by the assailant who was later killed by police.

Police after a deadly shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California (Noah Berger/AP)
Police after a deadly shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California (Noah Berger/AP)

By Martha Mendoza and Kathleen Ronayne, Associated Press

A six-year-old boy was among the dead after a gunman cut through a fence to avoid security and opened fire at Northern California’s popular Gilroy Garlic Festival.

Three people were killed and at least 15 wounded before police fatally shot the gunman as terrified people and performers ran for cover.

Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said the assailant was armed with a rifle and sneaked in through a fence that borders a parking lot next to a creek.

He appeared to randomly target people when he opened fire at the conclusion of the three-day festival that attracts more than 100,000 people to the city known as the Garlic Capital Of The World.

Police responded within a minute, engaged the suspect and killed him, Mr Smithee said.

Some witnesses reported a second suspect, Mr Smithee said, but it was unclear whether that person was armed or simply provided assistance.

A manhunt continued late into the night.

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Police officers escort people from Christmas Hill Park following a deadly shooting during the Gilroy Garlic Festival (Noah Berger/AP)

Mr Smithee called the scene at the festival a “nightmare you hope you never have to live”.

A six-year-old boy was one among those killed, his father said.

“My son had his whole life to live and he was only six,” the father of Stephen Romero told NBC Bay Area.

“That’s all I can say.”

The wounded were taken to multiple hospitals, and their conditions ranged from fair to critical, with some in surgery Sunday night.

At least five were treated and released.

The Gilroy Garlic Festival features food, cooking contests and music.

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Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee speaks at a press conference (Josie Lepe/AP)

It is a decades-old staple in the agricultural city of 50,000 about 80 miles south east of San Francisco.

Security is tight, festival-goers pass through metal detectors and their bags are searched.

On Sunday, the band TinMan was starting an encore with the song We’re An American Band when the shooting started.

Singer Jack van Breen said he saw a man wearing a green shirt and greyish handkerchief around his neck fire into the food area with what looked like an assault rifle.

Van Breen and other members of the band sought cover under the stage.

Van Breen, from nearby Santa Clara, said he heard someone shout: “Why are you doing this?” and the reply: “Because I’m really angry.”

Their audience began screaming and running, and the five members of TinMan and others dove under the stage.

Van Breen’s bandmate, Vlad Malinovsky of Walnut Creek, California, said he heard a lot of shots and then it stopped.

Later, police came by and told the band members and others hiding with them to come out with their hands up.

Taylor Jackson was working at a booth drawing caricatures of festival-goers when she heard gunfire, saw people running and “ran for the hills.”

She said her boss ran in the opposite direction.

Several hours later, Ms Jackson was at a reunification centre trying to get information on her whereabouts.

Donna Carlson of Reno, Nevada, was helping a friend at a jewellery booth when “all of a sudden it was pop, pop, pop. And I said, ‘I sure hope that’s fireworks’.”

She got on her hands and knees and hid behind a table until police told her it was safe to leave.

In a tweet, California governor, Gavin Newsom called the bloodshed “nothing short of horrific” and expressed appreciation for the police response.

President Donald Trump tweeted before authorities confirmed the gunman was dead and urged people to “be careful and safe!”

Video posted to social media showed people running in terror as shots rang out.

Evenny Reyes of Gilroy, 13, told the Mercury News that she spent the day at the festival with her friends and relatives.

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People at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California following a mass shooting (Nhat V Meyer/San Jose Mercury News/AP)

“We were just leaving and we saw a guy with a bandanna wrapped around his leg because he got shot. And there were people on the ground, crying,” Evenny said.

“There was a little kid hurt on the ground. People were throwing tables and cutting fences to get out.”

Evenny said that she did not run at first because the gunshots sounded like fireworks.

“It started going for five minutes, maybe three. It was like the movies, everyone was crying, people were screaming,” she said.

Mr Smithee said the festival is a source of pride for the community and that thousands donate their time to make it a success.

“It’s incredibly sad and disheartening that an event that does so much good for our community has to suffer from a tragedy like this,” he said.

A police official later identified the gunman as Santino William Legan.

PA Media

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