When the shooting started Sunday at the garlic festival, Gilroy police officers were patrolling the event.
Three officers began shooting at the gunman in less than a minute, Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said Monday at a news conference, “despite the fact that they were outgunned, with their handguns, against a rifle.”
“We had thousands of people there in a very small area,” Smithee said, his ears tearing up a little. “It could have gotten so much worse, so fast. I’m really proud that they got there as quickly as they did.”
“There absolutely would have been more bloodshed. With the number of people in the small area they were in, I think it’s very, very fortunate that they were able to engage him as quickly as they did,” he added.
Gilroy Mayor Roland Velasco said it “takes remarkable bravery to run to a shooting when the natural reaction for all of us is to run away.”
The famed festival was winding down when the gunfire broke out at 5:30 p.m. Authorities have said 19-year-old Santino William Legan cut through a fence at the back of the park where the festival took place to avoid the security and metal detectors.
Legan purchased his assault-style weapon legally in Nevada on July 9, Smithee said. The gunman was originally from Gilroy but spent some time in Nevada living with family, he said.
Law enforcement officials are still searching for a motive in the shooting and to determine whether the gunman worked with an accomplice, officials said.
“We don’t have any confirmation that any second suspect did any shooting,” Smithee said. “But we certainly are investigating all leads to try to determine who that potential second suspect is and what exactly that person’s role was.”
The shooting killed a 6-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl and a man in his 20s, Smithee said.
“Any time a life is lost, it’s a tragedy,” Smithee said. “But when it’s young people, it’s even worse. It’s very difficult.”
A number of roads remained closed Monday in Gilroy as 30 law enforcement officials worked to gather evidence across a crime scene that spans “many, many acres,” said Craig Fair, deputy special agent in charge at the FBI.
“It’s done very slowly, it’s done very methodically,” Fair said. “It’s done for a reason, should we have to use that evidence for prosecution later on.”
The number of injuries from the shooting rose by one Monday, to 12 total, San Jose Fire Department spokesman Mitch Matlow said. The original number of injuries, 11, did not include one person went unassisted to a hospital, he said. The number of deaths remains at four, including that of the gunman.