What we know about the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting suspect

Police search suspects home
Law enforcement officials load paper bags gathered at a house in the 300 block of Churchill Place in Gilroy, Calif.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

In the hours before Santino William Legan is alleged to have begun firing into a crowd at the Gilroy Garlic Festival on Sunday, police say the 19-year-old posted a photo on Instagram with the caption, “Ayyy garlic festival time come get wasted on overpriced ...,” using an expletive.

He also posted a photo of a Smokey Bear sign warning about fire danger with a caption instructing people to read the novel “Might Is Right” by Ragnar Redbeard, authorities said.

The book, published in 1890, includes discredited principles related to Social Darwinism that have been used to justify racism, slavery and colonialism, said Brian Levin, director of Cal State San Bernardino’s Center on Hate and Extremism.


“The notion that people of color are biologically inferior is a key tenet of this book, and that biological determinism, the Darwinian view of the world, justifies aggression against diverse people and vulnerable people,” Levin said.

Legan was identified by police Monday as the shooter who opened fire at the crowded Gilroy Garlic Festival, killing three and wounding 12 others. Officers who were patrolling the park during the event shot and killed Legan after the rampage.

Gilroy police said a 6-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl and a man in his 20s were killed when a gunman opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival on Sunday.

July 30, 2019

Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said the gunman was able to circumvent the Northern California festival’s security by entering from a creek area and cutting through a fence.

Gunman used banned weapon

The weapon that Legan used was a WASR 10. It is a semiautomatic rifle built in Romania that looks like a military style AK-47. The weapon, with its standard clip and stocks, is considered an assault rifle that is banned under California law. The weapon is legal in Nevada, according to multiple law enforcement sources.


The AK-47-style rifle that was used in the attack was purchased legally in Nevada on July 9. Legan was originally from Gilroy, but spent some time in Nevada living with family, Smithee said. Early Monday morning, the FBI and Mineral County sheriff’s deputies searched a unit in a triplex in Walker Lake, Nev., that authorities believe Legan used in the days before the shooting, Mineral County Dist. Atty. Sean Rowe said.

California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra said Monday that the investigation into the shooting may determine that the shooter broke a California law by purchasing the weapon in Nevada and bringing it into California.

“That weapon could not be sold in California. That weapon cannot be imported into the state of California,” he said. “There is a very strong likelihood, as we develop the evidence, that the perpetrator in this particular case, violated California law, on top of the crimes of homicide.”

The owner of Big Mike’s Gun and Ammo, a gun store in Fallon, Nev., posted on Facebook that Legan had ordered the rifle online and picked it up at the store.

“I did not know this individual. He ordered the rifle off my internet page. When I did see him, he was acting happy and showed no reasons for concern. I would never ever sell any firearm to anyone who acted wrong or looks associated with any bad group like white power,” the statement read. The store labels itself as a family-run business in support of the 2nd Amendment.

Officials don’t know motive

Two search warrants were served Monday in connection with the shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, including on a vehicle that the gunman used to drive to the festival. Police said it was found on Laurel Drive, northeast of the park.

Officials also served a search warrant on a residence connected to the gunman at the end of a quiet suburban cul-de-sac in Gilroy. Police emerged from the house earlier Monday carrying several paper bags.

Officials are “no closer” to determining whether there was a second person involved in the shooting, and if so, what kind of involvement the person had, Smithee said. Officials also haven’t determined why the gunman began shooting.

“Everyone wants to know the answer: Why? If there’s any affiliation with other people, or groups of people, that could potentially pose a threat in the future, that all plays in,” Smithee said.

All our stories of Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting in one place

July 29, 2019

A law enforcement source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said detectives were digging into the suspect’s social media accounts for indications of his belief system and opinions. It’s unclear whether the gunman was targeting specific people or shooting randomly.

Books and movies, Levin said, are often used in the radicalization process, and “Might Is Right,” like others that used to be obscure, is easily found on the internet.

“It’s certainly not the most popular available title in the virtual Aryan book club available 24 hours a day on a computer screen nearest you,” Levin said. “It stands out as among the worst bigoted screeds of its era promoting biological determinism and racial prejudice.”

Legan identified himself as being of Italian and Iranian descent in his Instagram profile, authorities said, which has since been deleted. He appears all but absent from social media.

Kawika Palacios, 29, said his parents saw police searching a home linked to the man suspected of opening fire Sunday at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. 

Footage surfaced of Legan’s graduation from Gilroy High School in 2017. In the YouTube video, Legan’s full name is announced before he walks across the stage to receive his diploma. The school declined to confirm that he attended and stated that it would respond to media inquiries within the timeline required by the law. The school district is offering counseling sessions for students, staff and members of the community affected by the incident.

Vendors who came from throughout California have been staying at the high school while they wait to be allowed back into the festival grounds to retrieve their merchandise and money.

Legan lived in Gilroy, not far from the site of the famed food festival. His grandfather was a former Santa Clara County supervisor.

‘I’m really angry,’ gunman was heard saying

When Jerome Turcan heard on the radio that there had been a shooting in Gilroy, he called his friend Tom Legan and Legan’s son, Rosino, whom he’d trained in boxing and martial arts since he was 7 years old. Turcan got through to Rosino, who told Turcan he was in the car with his cousin, searching for his little brother, Santino, Turcan recalled. Rosino couldn’t find his brother and was thinking of going to the emergency room.

“They wanted to be sure he was OK. That was the last contact I had with him,” Turcan said. “And then I learned this morning it was Santino who did the shooting — it was shocking.”

Turcan, who teaches martial arts in San Jose, said he trained Rosino two or three times a week for more than a decade. He watched the boy grow into a top-notch athlete who at one point ranked second in the nation for his weight class. Tom Legan is “a great athlete himself,” Turcan said, adding he’d tried out for the Olympics in 1988 for the 800- and 400-meter events. Turcan said he didn’t see much of Santino — the boy didn’t box or train in martial arts.

“That family is a good family, really respectful, really hard-working,” he said. “I don’t know where this comes from. It’s shocking, just shocking.”

Rosino Legan, 23, is a boxer with USA Boxing. It’s unclear if he is actively training for the 2020 Olympics but was described as such two years ago. In a 2014 Medium post he wrote about his experience with the 2013 California vs. Puerto Rico boxing team and described his father, Tom Legan — a competitive track-and-field runner — as his coach.

In a 2017 Gilroy Dispatch article, Santino Legan is described as one of his brother’s “ready-made sparring partners,” in addition to his two other brothers.

Rosino Legan is a 2018 graduate of Santa Clara University, a private college, and graduated from a high school east of Santa Cruz.

Jack Van Breen, lead vocalist and guitarist for the local band TinMan, told reporters that his group was playing an encore when he heard a pop. He turned in the direction of the noise and saw a man “in a green top with a gray handkerchief kind of around his neck and what appeared to be an assault rifle.”

“He started shooting again in the direction of where all the food people were dining,” Van Breen told the Associated Press.

He heard someone shout: “Why are you doing this?” and the reply: “Because I’m really angry.”

Ernesto Mendoza said a caravan of police vehicles streamed into his quiet Gilroy area Sunday evening, not long after reports of a shooting. Blaring from the vehicles’ loudspeakers was a message: Go inside and shut your doors, Mendoza said.

A boy, 6, a 13-year-old girl and a man in his 20s died in the shooting rampage at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. The gun used was recently purchased legally.

July 29, 2019

Authorities cordoned off the mouth of the cul-de-sac until about 1 a.m., when the vehicles streamed out, he said.

Mendoza believed they were just making sure the neighborhood was safe — he often runs in the park where the festival is held, just a 30-minute jog from his home. It wasn’t until Monday morning, when reporters asked Mendoza what he knew of his neighbors, that he realized the shooter may have lived on his street.

“Our neighbor? We don’t want to speculate it’s our neighbor, because we don’t know yet,” he said. “It’s terrible. How many years have they been doing that festival? It’s supposed to be very quiet.”

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July 29, 2019

Times staff writers Matthew Ormseth, Laura J. Nelson and Ruben Vives reported from Gilroy, and Hannah Fry, Hailey Branson-Potts, Colleen Shalby and Richard Winton from Los Angeles. Times staff writers Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento and Alene Tchekmedyian and Thomas Curwen in Los Angeles contributed to this report.