Tuesday 17 September 2019

Boy (6) dead as gunman kills three at food festival

San Francisco

Shock: Two festival volunteers embrace after the attack. Photo: AP
Shock: Two festival volunteers embrace after the attack. Photo: AP

Martha Mendoza

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.

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 had reported a second suspect but it was unclear whether that person was armed or simply provided assistance.

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

"My son had his whole life to live and he was only six," little Stephen Romero's father 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.

At least five were treated and released.

The Gilroy Garlic Festival features food, cooking contests and music. It is a decades-old staple in the agricultural city of 50,000 about 128km south-east of San Francisco.

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

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.

Mr Van Breen and other members of the band sought cover under the stage. From nearby Santa Clara, he 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 band members of TinMan and others dived under the stage.

Bandmate Vlad Malinovsky 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".

Donna Carlson was helping a friend at a jewellery booth on Sunday 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.

Irish Independent

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