BULLETIN: FBI launches terrorism investigation into Garlic Festival shooting

John Bennett, special agent in charge of the FBI’s San Francisco division, addresses reporters during a press conference at the Gilroy Police Department. Photo: Erik Chalhoub

The FBI launched a domestic terrorism investigation into the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting, officials announced Tuesday.

John Bennett, special agent in charge of the FBI’s San Francisco division, told reporters at a Gilroy press conference that the investigation of Santino William Legan’s digital devices uncovered a list of organizations that may have been targeted for similar violent acts. Those organizations included religious institutions, federal buildings, courthouses, political institutions from both major parties, and the Garlic Festival, Bennett said.

Legan shot and killed himself after a shootout with Gilroy police July 28, minutes after he sprayed the festival crowd with a semi-automatic rifle, killing three people and wounding 13.

Bennett declined to name the organizations on the list, citing concerns about an ongoing investigation, but said the FBI is reaching out to them. However, the organizations on the list were “nationwide,” not specifically Santa Clara County, he added.

The motive for the Garlic Festival shooting is still being explored, he said. It appeared Legan, a 19-year-old Gilroy native, was “interested in several violent ideologies,” but it is unknown which one he settled on, according to Bennett.

Bennett said the FBI will now look into whether Legan was in contact with other individuals or organizations.

“The case is ongoing and we cannot provide any detailed information,” he said. “It’s important that we do this the right way.”

In order to initiate a federal terrorism investigation, authorities must have reason to believe that a suspect’s act of violence was “motivated by their ideology,” Bennett said. He declined to offer specific evidence leading investigators to this determination.

Opening a domestic terrorism investigation adds the Garlic Festival case to the FBI’s “portfolio,” allowing agents to take out subpoenas and search warrants for further investigation. 

“We can start cutting leads across the country to further investigate this,” Bennett said.

In response to a question from a reporter, Bennett declined to discuss any potential relationship between the Garlic Festival shooting and at least two mass shootings that left nearly 30 people dead since then, in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas. Federal authorities are investigating the El Paso shooting as a domestic terrorism case.  

Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee added at the Aug. 6 press conference that Legan fired about 39 rounds from an AK-47-style rifle that he brought to the Garlic Festival for the purpose of enacting violence. Legan had a 75-round-capacity drum magazine—with 71 rounds remaining—attached to the rifle when he died.

Police also found on Legan’s person two more 40-round magazines, two 40-round clips on the ground near him and another 40-round magazine “on or near him,” Smithee added. Also found, in a bag that Legan left near a creek adjacent to the Garlic Festival boundary, two more 40-round magazines for the rifle, a scope, flashlight and shovel. In the bag were also loose rounds for the rifle and a shotgun, which police found while searching Legan’s car on Laurel Drive shortly after the shooting.

The shotgun was identified as a Remington 870. Police have previously said Legan purchased both firearms legally in Nevada in early July.

The chief also revealed that officers Cryar, Del Moral and Basuino fired a total of 18 rounds at the suspect before he died. None of the murdered victims were hit by “friendly fire” from the officers, Smithee confirmed.

“The suspect was hit by the police officers’ gunfire multiple times. I do not yet have a definitive finding from the coroner where those rounds hit him, or how many,” Smithee said. “We have been able to determine that none of the people who died were struck by friendly fire; they were killed by the suspect.”

In response to a question, Smithee added that “there is no indication” that any of the 13 wounded survivors were hit by police fire.

Even though the shooting scene is back under local police jurisdiction, Smithee said Christmas Hill Park remains closed to the public as vendors and festival patrons continue to retrieve their personal belongings from the crime scene.

Michael Moore contributed to this article.

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