Questions remain unanswered in festival shooter’s motive

FBI’s investigation continues into terrorist act

86
John Bennett, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Division, speaks to reporters during an August 2019 press conference in Gilroy. File photo

No new information has yet been released in the year since the FBI opened a domestic terrorism investigation into the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting.

FBI San Francisco Division spokesperson Prentice Danner confirmed the ongoing investigation on July 14, but did not offer further details.

FBI Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Division, John Bennett, said at an Aug. 6, 2019 press conference that Santino Legan, 19, of Gilroy, had been studying “violent ideologies” before the massacre.

Information about the killer’s interests in these ideologies was gleaned from law enforcement searches of digital devices and residences associated with Legan, and other unspecified evidence.

Federal authorities are also investigating whether Legan, who has been described by investigators as a “loner,” had been in contact with anyone else regarding the Garlic Festival attack, if anyone helped him and why he chose the festival to commit violence.

Bennett said in August that the investigation of 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.

Legan died in a shootout with three Gilroy police officers, who had run toward the gunfire as soon as they heard shots, according to authorities. As the officers were shooting at Legan, hitting him multiple times with rounds from their handguns, the suspect fell to the ground and fatally shot himself in the head.

In a recent interview with the Dispatch, Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said the public might soon start to see some of the body camera footage of officers on the scene of the July 28, 2019 massacre. The footage was requested by this newspaper and other news outlets immediately after the shooting, but attorneys for the city and FBI have withheld the evidence so far because the investigation is not complete. 

Smithee added that Gilroy Police detectives have remained in contact with FBI investigators about the Garlic Festival shooting. 

“They did a lot of evidence work for us, and we haven’t gotten all that back yet,” Smithee said. “It’s such a big case, and it’s a relatively slow process trying to wrap that up.” 

That evidence includes the recovery of as many rounds fired at Christmas Hill Park as investigators could find, and determining the trajectory of each bullet, authorities said early on in the investigation. The FBI and local police kept the park closed for weeks after the shooting so investigators could conduct exhaustive crime scene analysis. 

The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office found that the three Gilroy police officers—Eric Cryar, Robert Basuino and Hugo Del Moral—acted lawfully when they fired multiple shots at suspect Legan. The DA’s report on the investigation was released to the public March 10.

“Under the facts and applicable law in this matter, Detective Cryar, Officer Basuino and Officer Del Moral quite reasonably believed that they needed to use deadly force to protect innocent lives, and their own, from Santino Legan’s violent rampage,” reads the DA’s report, compiled by Deputy DA Robert Baker. “Placing themselves, literally, in the line of fire to stop a mass murderer undoubtedly saved lives and prevented further bloodshed. In light of the grave circumstances of this case, their actions were unquestionably lawful and justified.”

Erik Chalhoub contributed to this report.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here