Gilroy shooter’s target list prompts domestic terrorism probe by FBI
Federal authorities on Tuesday said they had launched a domestic terrorism investigation into the shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival after officials discovered the gunman had a list of other potential targets.
Among the targets were religious organizations, courthouses, federal buildings and political institutions involving both the Republican and Democratic parties, FBI special agent in charge John F. Bennett said during a news conference. The agency declined to provide specifics on the targets but said law enforcement officials were reaching out to notify them.
The new investigation comes as law enforcement continues to try to determine a motive for the attack.
Santino William Legan, 19, opened fire at the popular food festival on the evening of July 28, killing three people and wounding 13. Legan wore a bulletproof vest as he carried out the attack, firing 39 rounds as attendees fled from the park where the annual festival was being held, Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said.
Police initially had said the rampage was cut short when three Gilroy officers engaged a rifle-wielding Legan with handguns and killed him in less than a minute. Officers fired 18 rounds and hit Legan multiple times, officials said.
The county medical examiner later concluded Legan had killed himself, contradicting that earlier police account.
The announcement of a domestic terrorism probe in the Gilroy shooting comes days after mass shootings at a Walmart in El Paso that killed 22 people and one in Dayton, Ohio, that killed nine. The FBI also said Tuesday that it had opened an investigation in the Ohio case.
Authorities have not determined whether Legan was a white nationalist but have not ruled it out either, Bennett said.
“We have uncovered evidence that the shooter was exploring violent ideologies,” he said. On Thursday, the agent had noted that writtenran the ideological gamut.
Researchers increasingly are seeing shooters with a broad range of motivations and, at times, conflicting ideologies, which can make it difficult to classify attacks and pinpoint the driving force behind them, said Brian Levin, director of Cal State San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.
“We see that in the far right, but we also see it in anarchists,” he said. “Traditionally, what we’ve seen is some kind of curation about where aggression is directed, but there’s a whole cadre of extremists whose goal is really about bringing society to its knees. Violence is not just a means to promote an ideology. It’s become an ideology itself.”
Authorities are trying to determine whom Legan may have been in contact with before the attack, whether anyone helped coordinate it and why he ultimately carried it out, Bennett said.
FBI profilers are interviewing Legan’s relatives and associates, reviewing his online presence and combing through materials seized from the Nevada residence, including several hard drives, a computer tower, books and a letter from a relative, according to a receipt of a search warrant released by Nevada authorities.
Before the attack, Legan posted a photo on Instagram of a Smokey Bear sign warning about fire danger, with a caption instructing people to read an obscure novel glorified by white supremacists: “Might Is Right,” published under the pseudonym Ragnar Redbeard. The book, published in 1890, includes discredited principles related to social Darwinism that have been used to justify racism, slavery and colonialism, Levin said.
Bennett has said there was no indication Legan targeted festival attendees of a particular race. On Instagram, the Gilroy resident identified himself as of Italian and Iranian heritage.
Authorities say Legan bought the semiautomatic rifle used in the attack legally in Nevada on July 9, less than three weeks before the shooting. The weapon looks like a military-style AK-47. With its standard clip and stocks, it’s considered an assault rifle
Legan had a 75-round drum magazine and five 40-round magazines as he carried out the attack. Authorities later found a Remington 870 shotgun inside his car, Smithee said.
“To the families of Stephen, Keyla, and Trevor: We know that nothing we can say or do will ever bring back your loved ones. But we want you to know that everything that law enforcement is doing is being done with you in our minds,” Bennett said.
Legan’s family wrote in a statement that they are “deeply shocked and horrified” by their son’s actions. They thanked the community for their messages of support and compassion.
“To the families of Stephen Romero, Keyla Salazar, Trevor Irby, and to the injured that survived this tragedy, we cannot begin to describe our despair at his actions. We want to express our deepest and sincerest apologies for the loss and pain that he has caused,” the statement read.
“We have never and would never condone the hateful thoughts and ideologies that led to this event, and it is impossible to reconcile this with the son we thought we knew. Our son is gone, and we will forever have unanswered questions as to how or why any of this has happened.”
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