A gunman who opened fire at a food festival in northern California, killing three and injuring 13, had taken his own life before police shot him, a county coroner determined Friday.
The finding contradicts police accounts that they had fatally shot down the shooter “in less than a minute” at the Gilroy garlic festival on Sunday, but the Gilroy police chief, Scot Smithee, said in a press conference on Friday that there was more to the account that would not be available until the coroner finished the investigative report.
The suspect gained entry to the festival by cutting through a fence and entering through a creek to avoid metal detectors. He used an “assault-type rifle”, in the style of an AK-47, officials in the northern California town said, killing six-year-old Stephen Romero, 13-year-old Keyla Salazar, and 25-year-old Trevor Irby.
Three officers ran to the area, and “the suspect immediately changed his fire from the crowd to the officers”, Smithee said. The officers were able to knock the gunman down, and while he was down, he “was able to get a round up and shot himself”.
“I know the suspect was hit multiple times,” Smithee said.
The shooter struck on the last day of the garlic festival, a beloved regional event that attracts around 100,000 people every summer to eat garlic-loaded food to celebrate the local crop, amid live music and family entertainment. Stephen Romero had been playing on a bouncy castle when the shooting broke out, while Keyla Salazar had stayed back to assist a relative with a cane.
Smithee does not believe the officers – identified Thursday as detective Eric Cryar, a 23-year veteran, Hugo Del Moral, a 17-year veteran, and Robert Basuino, a 13-year veteran of the department – knew the gunman had shot himself. Smithee said he did not think that the fact that the shooter had shot himself “changes much of anything”.
Police identified the shooter as 19-year-old Santino William Legan. Investigators are still working to determine the motive behind the shooting.
It is illegal to buy, sell, manufacture or possess the type of weapon used in the shooting, but the shooter legally bought the gun in Nevada, authorities said.
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