GILROY (California, US): Members of a SWAT (special weapons and tactics) team speak to crew brought in from neighbouring communities at the first aid centre at Gilroy High School after the shooting.—AP
GILROY (California, US): Members of a SWAT (special weapons and tactics) team speak to crew brought in from neighbouring communities at the first aid centre at Gilroy High School after the shooting.—AP

GILROY: A gunman killed three people, including a six-year-old boy, at a food festival in California before being shot dead by police, in the latest chapter of America’s epidemic of gun violence.

The shooter broke into the Gilroy Garlic Festival by cutting a fence and began firing at random, local police said, confirming that 15 other festivalgoers had been wounded.

Video footage showed people fleeing in terror as rifle rounds rang out at one of the largest food events in the country, which attracts around 100,000 each year to the city of Gilroy, 80 miles (130 kilometres) southeast of San Francisco.

The shooter has been identified as a 19-year-old man named Santino William Legan, CBS News reported.

Local police chief Scot Smithee said his officers, who confronted the assailant less than a minute after the alarm was raised, were searching for a possible second suspect.

The grandmother of six-year-old Stephen Romero said he was shot while attending the event with his mother and other grandmother.

Describing her grandson as “always kind, happy and... playful,” Maribel Romero told ABC7 News Stephen had died by the time she arrived at hospital.

President Donald Trump paid tribute to the victims on Monday at an event at the White House.

“While families were spending time at a local festival, a wicked murderer opened fire and killed three innocent citizens including a young child,” Trump said.

“We grieve for their families and ask that God comfort them.” House speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose district covers most of San Francisco, spoke of the survivors’ “tough road ahead” and called for action to end gun violence.

“Every day the Senate refuses to act is a stain on the conscience of our nation,” she said.

A witness named Julissa Contreras told NBC a white man in his 30s armed with a rifle opened fire indiscriminately.

“I could see him shooting in just every direction. He wasn’t aiming at anyone specifically. It was just left to right, right to left,” Contreras said, according to NBC.

“He definitely was prepared for what he was doing,” she said.

Smithee said the suspect appeared to have entered the 50-acre festival site via a creek, using cutting equipment to breach the event’s perimeter.

Metal detectors and bag searches were in place as part of “very tight security,” he said.

No motive was known but the suspect’s shooting appeared “somewhat random,” Smithee added.

The suspect used “some sort of a rifle,” he said.

Festival director Brian Bowe told reporters it was “horribly upsetting” that the attack happened on the third and final day of this year’s event in Gilroy, which he described as an “amazing... a tightly-knit community.” “Our 4,000-plus local volunteers work so hard every year and to see this event end this way is just one of the most tragic and sad things that I’ve ever had to see,” Bowe said.

“We feel so upset for those that are impacted — friends, families, neighbours. It’s just a horrible thing to experience.”

The Mercury News reported that the shooting took place as the festival was winding down. Stagehand Shawn Viaggi hit the ground after hearing “loud pops,” it said.

Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2019

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