Gilroy, CA – There would have been many more shooting victims at the Gilroy Garlic Festival had police officers not stopped the gunman less than a minute after the rampage began on Sunday evening.
The incident occurred at about 5:41 p.m. on July 28 on the north side of the festival area as the third day of the popular event that attracted thousands to Christmas Hill Park in Gilroy was wrapping up three days of festivities, KNTV reported.
“Officers were in that area and engaged the suspect in less than a minute. The suspect was shot and killed,” Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee told reporters at a press conference after the incident.
The festival was enclosed by a fence and security searched bags at the entrance to ensure that nobody was bringing in any weapons.
“It appears as though they had come into the festival via the creek which borders a parking area. They used some sort of a tool to cut through the fence to be able to gain access through the secure fence line, and that’s how they got into the festival area itself,” the chief added.
Police were still searching for a second suspect.
“We have one suspect we know that is down. We have some witnesses reporting that there may have been a second suspect but we don’t know if that suspect was engaged in any shooting or whether they may have been in some sort of support role for the person that we have accounted for,” Chief Smithee explained.
He said police did not yet have a description of the second suspect.
Three people were fatally shot, including six-year-old Steven Romero, KNTV reported.
Another 12 people were wounded during the gunman’s brief rampage.
The band Tin Man was performing on stage at the festival when the shooting began, according to KPIX.
Jack van Breen, the band’s singer, told police that he saw a man wearing a green shirt and a gray handkerchief around his neck fire a rifle into the food area.
The band members dove under the stage to escape the threat.
KPIX reported that van Breen said he heard somebody shout “Why are you doing this?” and the gunman replied “Because I’m really angry!”
Chief Smithee said that there were “many, many officers in the park” when the gunman opened fire “which accounts for the very, very quick response time” to the incident.
He said that his department had received help afterward from agencies all over Santa Clara and Monterey Counties.
The chief described the aftermath of the shooting spree as “chaos.”
Authorities quickly established a reunification area at a nearby college to help festival-goers who had been separated when they were running from gunfire.
Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Spokeswoman Joy Alexiou said that hospital had received seven gunshot victims from the festival, KPIX reported.
One was discharged later Sunday night but the rest remained hospitalized in various conditions from critical to fair, Alexiou said.
Stanford University Hospital Spokeswoman Lisa Kim said that hospital was treating two gunshot victims from the festival.
St. Louise Medical Center received several gunshot victims and also treated eight more people who were hurt while trying to escape the mayhem, KPIX reported.
Witnesses reported that several of the victims who had been shot were juveniles.
Christmas Hill Park remained on lockdown on Monday morning as investigators continued to comb through the scene.
Chief Smithee told reporters that police are looking for witnesses to the shootings, as well as pictures and videos from the scene, as they continue to look for information about a possible second suspect.
The family of the six-year-old boy who was shot were waiting for information on his mother and grandmother’s conditions late on Sunday night, NBC News reported.
Alberto Romero, the little boy’s father, said he had heard his wife had been shot twice in the hand, and that his mother-in-law’s wound was to her leg.
A law enforcement official told ABC News late on Sunday night that police had identified the deceased gunman but the suspect’s name has not yet been released by authorities.