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Six-year-old boy among three killed by 'wicked' shooter at US garlic festival

A witness told NBC a white man in his 30s armed with a rifle opened fire indiscriminately.

Updated Jul 29th 2019, 7:55 PM

California Festival Shooting Source: AP/PA Images

A GUNMAN KILLED three people, including a six-year-old boy, at a food festival in California before being shot dead by police, in the latest chapter of America’s epidemic of gun violence.

The shooter broke into the Gilroy Garlic Festival by cutting a fence and began firing at random, local police said, confirming that 15 other festival-goers had been wounded.

Video footage showed people fleeing in terror as rifle rounds rang out at one of the largest food events in the country, which attracts around 100,000 each year to the city of Gilroy, 130 kilometres southeast of San Francisco.

The shooter has been identified as a 19-year-old man named Santino William Legan, CBS News reported.

California Festival Shooting A police officer leaves the family home of suspected gunman Santino William Legan. Source: AP/PA Images

Local police chief Scot Smithee said his officers, who confronted the assailant less than a minute after the alarm was raised, were searching for a possible second suspect.

The grandmother of six-year-old Stephen Romero said he was shot while attending the event with his mother and other grandmother.

Describing her grandson as “always kind, happy and… playful,” Maribel Romero told ABC7 News Stephen had died by the time she arrived at hospital.

President Donald Trump paid tribute to the victims at an event at the White House.

“While families were spending time at a local festival, a wicked murderer opened fire and killed three innocent citizens, including a young child,” Trump said.

We grieve for their families and ask that god comfort them.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose district covers most of San Francisco, spoke of the survivors’ “tough road ahead” and called for action to end gun violence.

“Every day the Senate refuses to act is a stain on the conscience of our nation,” she said.

California Festival Shooting Attendees at the Gilroy Garlic Festival wait for relatives at a reunification centre Source: Josie Lepe/PA Images

‘Random’ shooting

A witness named Julissa Contreras told NBC a white man in his 30s armed with a rifle opened fire indiscriminately.

“I could see him shooting in just every direction. He wasn’t aiming at anyone specifically. It was just left to right, right to left,” Contreras said, according to NBC.

“He definitely was prepared for what he was doing,” she said.

Smithee said the suspect appeared to have entered the 50-acre festival site via a creek, using cutting equipment to breach the event’s perimeter.

Metal detectors and bag searches were in place as part of “very tight security,” he said.

No motive was known but the suspect’s shooting appeared “somewhat random,” Smithee added. The suspect used “some sort of a rifle,” he said.

California Festival Shooting According to authorities, gunman Santino William Legan cut through a fence and opened fire on a crowd. Source: AP/PA Images

Festival director Brian Bowe told reporters it was “horribly upsetting” that the attack happened on the third and final day of this year’s event in Gilroy, which he described as an “amazing… a tightly-knit community.”

“Our 4,000-plus local volunteers work so hard every year and to see this event end this way is just one of the most tragic and sad things that I’ve ever had to see,” Bowe said.

We feel so upset for those that are impacted – friends, families, neighbours. It’s just a horrible thing to experience.

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‘Senseless violence’

The Mercury News reported that the shooting took place as the festival was winding down.

Stagehand Shawn Viaggi hit the ground after hearing “loud pops,” it said.

“I called out, ‘It’s a real gun, let’s get out of here,’ and we hid under the stage,” Viaggi said, according to the newspaper.

The Gilroy Garlic Festival features live entertainment including bands and cooking competitions as well as food and drink, according to organisers.

The family event is a major focal point for the small city of around 50,000.

Thirteen-year-old Evenny Reyes told the Mercury News that “we were just leaving and we saw a guy with a bandana wrapped around his leg because he got shot. And there were people on the ground, crying.”

“There was a little kid hurt on the ground. People were throwing tables and cutting fences to get out,” said Reyes.

Mass shootings are a frequent occurrence in the US, but despite the scale of the gun violence problem, efforts to address it legislatively have largely stalled at the federal level.

With reporting from - © AFP 2019.

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