Gilroy Garlic Festival Shooting: Boy, 6, Is Among 4 Dead In California

Updated at 11:15 a.m. ET
At least three people were killed and 15 others injured when a man opened fire Sunday at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, Calif., police Chief Scot Smithee told reporters at a news conference hours after the shooting. The shooter also died.

The gunfire began on the north side of the festival grounds, at around 5:41 p.m. local time on the third and final day of the annual garlic celebration that the town of Gilroy, some 80 miles south of San Francisco, has hosted for decades.

Videos posted to Twitter showed festivalgoers scattering, fleeing gunfire at Christmas Hill Park.

“Officers were in that area and engaged the suspect in less than a minute. The suspect was shot and killed,” Smithee said, adding that the gunfire seemed to be “somewhat random, as he moved out into the festival area.”

Police do not currently have a motive for the deadly attack.

“He was carrying an assault-type rifle,” the city of Gilroy said in a news release about the shooting. “Witnesses indicated there may have been a second suspect and a search is underway for that person.”

Smithee confirmed that a hunt for a possible second suspect is underway. However, he said that while police believe another person was somehow involved, “we just don’t know in what way.”

Officials have not released the names of those who were shot. But a man who rushed to the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center to check on his family Sunday night told reporters that his son was killed at the festival.

Six-year-old Stephen Romero died after being shot in the back, his father, Alberto Romero, told San Jose newspaper the Mercury News.

“He was joyful, always wanted to play, always positive,” Romero said of his son, who was to start first grade at the end of the summer.

Stephen Romero had been at the festival with his mother and grandmother; both of them were also shot and were being treated at the hospital, Alberto Romero told the Mercury News.

Describing how the gunman managed to get a rifle into the festival, Smithee said it appears that “they used some sort of a tool to cut through the fence” near a creek that borders a parking area.

The shooting started while the band Tin Man was on stage, leading to some confusion over the sudden sound of gunfire.

Francisco Cruz was at the festival with about 20 relatives — some of whom were in town to attend a wedding. He told NPR member station KQED that he was near the stage when he heard a gunshot ring out.

“I saw this guy dressed up,” Cruz told KQED. “I thought he was a sheriff because he was wearing a brown vest with the green pants and the hat.”

At first, Cruz said, he thought the “sheriff” might have fired his weapon accidentally.

“But then when I saw him picking up the gun and reloading the gun that’s when I knew what it was,” he said. “We were all in danger.”

Cruz raced to get his kids to safety. When the scary situation was finally resolved, he realized his cousin had been shot. She was taken to the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

Some of Cruz’s relatives had been visiting from Mexico when they encountered what he called “a nightmare” on Sunday. As Cruz tells KQED, “You know, I just wanted to show them the beautiful side of California.”

On Monday morning, Christmas Hill Park, where the shooting occurred, remained an active crime scene, with dozens of law enforcement officials from two counties working on the case. During the night, police posted information for people who were at the festival — helping people reunite with loved ones while also seeking witnesses to the crime.

Nearly two dozen people were sent to area trauma centers for gunshot wounds and other injuries, according to Joy Alexiou, public information officer for the Santa Clara County Health & Hospital System. She said some patients were transported by airlift.

Gilroy bills itself as the “Garlic Capital of the World.” The annual celebration featuring food and music usually attracts 100,000 people, The Associated Press reports.

“Pocketknives and weapons of any kind” are prohibited at the park, according to the festival’s website.

“This is nothing short of horrific,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted Sunday. “Tonight, CA stands with the Gilroy community. My office is monitoring the situation closely. Grateful for the law enforcement’s efforts and their continued work as this situation develops.”

President Trump also responded to reports of the shooting on Sunday. “Law Enforcement is at the scene of shootings in Gilroy, California. Reports are that shooter has not yet been apprehended. Be careful and safe!” he tweeted.

This is a developing story. Some things that get reported by the media will later turn out to be wrong. We will focus on reports from police officials and other authorities, credible news outlets and reporters who are at the scene. We will update as the situation develops.

NPR’s Bobby Allyn contributed to this report.

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