The FBI is investigating the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting as a domestic terrorism incident.
In making the announcement in Gilroy Aug. 6, authorities said Santino William Legan went to the event July 28 with more than 200 rounds of ammunition, and the killer had compiled a hit list of targets throughout the country prior to killing three people and injuring 13 others at the city’s signature event.
The killer turned his semi-automatic rifle on himself in the midst of a gun battle with three Gilroy police officers a minute after the mass shooting.
FBI Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco division, John Bennett, revealed at an Aug. 6 press conference that Legan, 19, of Gilroy, had been studying “violent ideologies” before the local massacre.
“We have seen a fractured ideology” explored by Legan, Bennett said. “He had an interest in various, competing ideologies. We continue to investigate what, if any, ideology he had eventually settled on.”
Information about the killer’s interests in these ideologies was gleaned from law enforcement searches of digital devices and residences associated to Legan, and other unspecified evidence.
Bennett told KQED, San Francisco’s public radio station, that the FBI is subpoenaing Facebook for information about an Instagram account that is potentially linked to the shooter and that contains a reference to white nationalist literature.
Federal authorities are also investigating whether Legan had been in contact with anyone else regarding the Garlic Festival attack, if anyone helped him and why he chose the festival to commit violence.
Bennett declined to say what specific ideologies Legan had been interested in. Authorities have not reached a “final conclusion” on his motive.
Crime scene work done
The FBI has finished collecting evidence at Christmas Hill Park, Bennett said, and has turned the crime scene back to Gilroy Police.
Also on Aug. 6, the Santa Clara County Coroner’s Office, responding to an inquiry by the Gilroy Dispatch, revealed the cause and manner of death of the three murder victims. Keyla Salazar, 13, of San Jose, and Trevor Irby, 25, of New York, died of a “perforating gunshot wound of chest,” according to the coroner’s office. Stephen Romero, 6, of San Jose, died of “perforating gunshot wound of back.” The coroner officially ruled all three deaths homicides.
Legan died in a shootout with three Gilroy police officers, who had run toward the gunfire as soon as they heard shots, according to authorities. As the officers were shooting at Legan, hitting him “multiple times” with rounds from their handguns, the suspect fell to the ground and fatally shot himself in the head, Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said last week.
Smithee identified the three officers who discharged their weapons as law enforcement veterans Eric Cryar, Hugo Del Moral and Robert Basuino. He has hailed the officers as heroes for preventing the gunman from killing or injuring even more people.
“The officers got there fast and eliminated the threat,” Smithee said.
The officers engaged Legan at the north side of the Garlic Festival about 20 minutes before the close of the three-day event, and less than a minute after Legan had sprayed a crowd with dozens of shots, killing Romero, Salazar and Irby and injuring 13 others. Four of the survivors remained hospitalized Aug. 6 at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.
Suspect had hundreds of rounds
Smithee added at the Aug. 6 press conference that Legan fired about 39 rounds from an AK-47-style rifle that he brought to the Garlic Festival. Legan had a 75-round-capacity drum magazine—with 71 rounds remaining—attached to the rifle when he died.
Police also found on Legan’s person two more 40-round magazines, two 40-round clips on the ground near him and another 40-round magazine “on or near him,” Smithee added. Also found, in a bag that Legan left near a creek adjacent to the Garlic Festival boundary, two more 40-round magazines for the rifle, a scope, flashlight and shovel. In the bag were also loose rounds for the rifle and a shotgun, which police found while searching Legan’s car on nearby Laurel Drive shortly after the shooting.
The shotgun was identified as a Remington 870. Police have previously said Legan purchased both firearms legally in Nevada in early July.
The chief also revealed that officers Cryar, Del Moral and Basuino fired a total of 18 rounds at the suspect before he died. None of the murdered victims was hit by “friendly fire” from the officers, Smithee confirmed.
“The suspect was hit by the police officers’ gunfire multiple times. I do not yet have a definitive finding from the coroner where those rounds hit him, or how many,” Smithee said. “We have been able to determine that none of the people who died were struck by friendly fire; they were killed by the suspect.”
In response to a question, Smithee added that “there is no indication” that any of the 13 wounded survivors were hit by police fire.
Killer had target list
In order to initiate a federal terrorism investigation, authorities must have reason to believe that a suspect’s act of violence was “motivated by their ideology,” Bennett said. He declined to offer specific evidence leading investigators to this determination.
Opening a domestic terrorism investigation adds the Garlic Festival case to the FBI’s “portfolio,” allowing agents to take out subpoenas and search warrants for further investigation. “We can start cutting leads across the country to further investigate this,” Bennett said.
Bennett also told reporters that the investigation of Legan’s digital devices uncovered a list of organizations that may have been targeted for similar violent acts. Those organizations included religious institutions, federal buildings, courthouses, political institutions from both major parties, and the Garlic Festival, Bennett said.
Bennett declined to name the organizations on the list, citing concerns about an ongoing investigation, but said the FBI is reaching out to them. However, the organizations on the list were “nationwide,” not specifically Santa Clara County, he added.
“The case is ongoing and we cannot provide any detailed information,” Bennett said. “It’s important that we do this the right way.”
In response to a question from a reporter, Bennett declined to discuss any potential relationship between the Garlic Festival shooting and at least two mass shootings that left nearly 30 people dead since then, in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas. Federal authorities are investigating the El Paso shooting as a domestic terrorism case.
Even though the shooting scene is back under local police jurisdiction, Smithee said Christmas Hill Park remained closed to the public as of Aug. 6 as vendors and festival patrons continued to retrieve their personal belongings from the crime scene.
Erik Chalhoub contributed to this story.