Newsletter: Chaos and multiple casualties at the Gilroy Garlic Festival

Map of Gilroy, Calif.
The site where the shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival occurred Sunday.
(Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, July 29, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

A legendary California food festival turned into a scene of horror on Sunday night, when at least one person opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. At least three people were killed and 15 others were injured during the shooting.

The three-day event is held every year in the Santa Clara County town of Gilroy, which bills itself as the “Garlic Capital of the World.” It’s hosted by community volunteers and raises money for schools, charities and nonprofit organizations. “It is genuinely a community event, in a way that I think few events like it are,” as my colleague Emily Alpert Reyes, who began her career in Gilroy, wrote on Twitter.

This story from the Gilroy Dispatch, which was published on Thursday, gives a sense of what the festival is like. And this longer 2018 story from Curbed offers a deeper look at the importance of garlic to Gilroy, and the city’s history.

Here’s more coverage on the shooting:

  • Witnesses describe Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting horror: “Active shooter, active shooter.” Los Angeles Times
  • A 72-year-old hat vendor at the festival describes witnessing the shooting. San Francisco Chronicle

And here’s a look at the week ahead:

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On Tuesday, Mark Morgan, the acting commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, will testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on improving conditions at the southern border.

Tuesday will also mark Night 1 of the second round of Democratic presidential candidate debates, which will be held in Detroit and hosted by CNN. Author Marianne Williamson will be the only California candidate in the ring during the first night of debates.

On Wednesday, Sen. Kamala Harris will take the stage for Night 2 of the Democratic primary debates, which many in the commentariat class are billing as a potential “rematch” between the California senator and former Vice President Joe Biden. (With Rep. Eric Swalwell out of the race, Harris and Williamson will be the only California candidates in this round of debates. Fellow Californian and late race entrant Tom Steyer failed to qualify.)

On Friday, the 38th annual Steinbeck Festival will commence in Monterey. The event will feature two days of John Steinbeck-themed films, talks, tours and visual and performing arts.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:


An off-duty LAPD officer was fatally shot early Saturday morning. The officer was reportedly eating with friends near a Lincoln Heights taco stand after midnight Saturday when he saw someone tagging a wall. He called out for the person to stop, setting off a chain of events that left Los Angeles Police Department officers mourning the death of one of their own while simultaneously trying to find his killer. Los Angeles Times

What’s a concentration camp — and, more important, who owns the term? It’s an old debate that in many ways started in California. Teresa Watanabe traces how the first major controversy broke out in 1972, when state officials agreed to install a plaque establishing Manzanar, the first of 10 “concentration camps” that held 10,000 people of Japanese ancestry during World War II, as a historical landmark. The story looks at differing viewpoints on the topic, and what has transpired in the decades since. Los Angeles Times


Candidates John Lee and Loraine Lundquist
Candidates John Lee and Loraine Lundquist — who are vying to represent parts of the northwestern San Fernando Valley on the Los Angeles City Council — at a town hall meeting.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Money from the fossil fuel industry has become a prickly issue in the City Council race to represent an area that was hit by the Aliso Canyon methane disaster. Los Angeles Times

Columnist Steve Lopez solicited readers for tips on the best places to take visitors to L.A. Dozens of readers (including Flea of the Red Hot Chili Pepper fame!) weighed in. Los Angeles Times

So you want to bike in L.A.? Here’s a guide to getting started. LAist

Anthony Hernandez’s L.A. photos are shown all over the world. L.A. museums need to catch up. Los Angeles Times

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A 26-year-old billionaire is building virtual border walls — and the federal government is buying. Los Angeles Times


“We all know our conduct is unacceptable”: If adopted, a new policy in San Bernardino could see city leaders docked a month’s pay for disruptive conduct at council meetings. San Bernardino Sun

Despite the heat wave, part of Chico’s CityHall has been without air conditioning for weeks, and the problem is unlikely to be fixed anytime soon. Chico Enterprise-Record


A priest at a Sikh temple in the Modesto area was assaulted in apparent hate crime. The assailant allegedly physically attacked the priest before telling him to go back to his own country before fleeing. Modesto Bee

Two Central Valley priests accused of sexual misconduct — one in Bakersfield and one in Dinuba — have been cleared by police departments in those cities, but they remain on administrative leave from the Diocese of Fresno pending other investigations. Fresno Bee

Riverside County and the ACLU have reached a tentative settlement in a lawsuit that the ACLU filed over an at-risk student intervention program that was condemned by critics as being overly harsh, racially biased and unconstitutional. Riverside Press-Enterprise

A Scottish man suspected of faking his death at a Carmel beach to avoid rape charges in his native Scotland has been arrested. Salinas Californian


California’s biggest oil spill in decades has brought more defiance than anger from locals. Los Angeles Times (Read our earlier newsletter coverage on the oil spill — and the role that oil has long played in environmentally conscious California.)

California sea lions are being poisoned by toxic algae. Sacramento Bee


The State Bar of California inadvertently leaked essay topics for Tuesday’s bar exam to numerous law school deans, and then emailed the essay topics to all test-takers in “an attempt to level the playing field.” Sacramento Bee

A Bakersfield local came up with the idea to “storm Area 51.” The plan, which started as a joke, has generated massive amounts of attention on the internet. Bakersfield Californian

Two dueling hot dog vendors are jockeying for prime turf in a Santa Rosa neighborhood rebuilding from the 2017 Tubbs fire. Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Understanding Craig Stecyk: Stecyk defined Southern California’s subversive, skateboard aesthetic and changed art and culture in the process. Longreads (This story originally ran in the now-defunct alt weekly New Times LA in 2002.)

Del Mar is the weak link in San Diego’s coastal railroad, with only one set of railroad tracks on a fragile sandstone bluff. San Diego Union-Tribune


Los Angeles: partly sunny, 84. San Diego: partly sunny, 75. San Francisco: windy, 67. San Jose: partly sunny, 77. Sacramento: sunny, 90. More weather is here.


This week’s birthdays for those who made a mark in California: L.A. Times owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong (July 29, 1952), artist Betye Saar (July 30, 1926), former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (July 30, 1947), writer Richard Rodriguez (July 31, 1944), Angels owner Arte Moreno (Aug. 1, 1946), state Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (Aug. 1, 1962), Rep. Josh Harder (Aug. 1, 1986), L.A. City Controller Ron Galperin (Aug. 1, 1963), rapper Coolio (Aug. 1, 1963) and former actress and current Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle (Aug. 4, 1981).

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.