San Benito County Sheriff’s Office deputies were among the initial law enforcement help to arrive at the Gilroy Garlic Festival and assist after a mass shooting Sunday, an agency spokesman recounted.
Capt. Eric Taylor with the San Benito County Sheriff’s Office recalled Sunday evening after the shooting and how the agency was in the midst of a shift change, so it had additional personnel in uniform and ready to help.
The sheriff’s office sent four deputies in four patrol cars.
“When our guys got there, the event was still unfolding,” said Taylor, noting how the shooter had been shot and killed at that point shortly after opening fire on the crowd, killing three others.
Taylor said two local sheriff’s deputies were in the vicinity when emergency personnel were conducting CPR on a victim who eventually passed away – while providing armed security – and two others were placed on perimeter duty to search for a possible second suspect. They were involved until almost 1 a.m., while the office has assigned 10 deputies to the incident since it occurred, Taylor said Tuesday afternoon.
Mostly, the agency is handling scene security, limiting access to the levy area near the shooting scene.
“Without hesitation, we sent what we could send,” Taylor said.
Since then, the sheriff’s office has been part of coordinated mutual aid through the state. It remains unclear if there was a second suspect beyond the shooter.
“They’re just honored to be able to be in a position to even help out,” Taylor said. “I’ve been proud of our deputies because they don’t even care what they’re asked to do. They just want to be of service.”
Taylor noted that because the Garlic Festival is always heavily staffed with emergency personnel, it likely limited the toll of victims.
“Because of that, medics were on scene tending to victims so fast,” Taylor said. “Unfortunately, in three of the instances, it wasn’t successful.”
Taylor went on: “This could’ve been way – there could have been a much higher loss of life than the three we lost.”
The fatal victims were a 6-year-old boy and 13-year-old girl from San Jose, and a 25-year-old from New York. The shooter was identified as Santino W. Legan, 19, of Gilroy. Twelve others were wounded by gunfire.
While the local sheriff’s office was offering mutual aid in this instance, Taylor acknowledged the Garlic Festival shooting will likely spur discussion in San Benito County about events and security.
“I think that this type of discussion, even since the Las Vegas shooting, has been a topic of conversation for law enforcement,” Taylor said, referring to the concert shooting that resulted in 59 deaths, including the shooter. “How do we adequately staff and prepare for these events without overcompensating and changing our way of life?”
He said everybody at events needs to stay alert and vigilant.
“I do think it’s going to be a dialogue we’re going to have to have as a community, when we have large events with very easy ingress and egress.”