Sat | Dec 5, 2020

California town pledges to remain strong in wake of shooting

Published:Wednesday | July 31, 2019 | 12:16 AM
Robbie Ramirez, 10, holds on to his father, Robert Ramirez, during a vigil for victims of a Sunday evening shooting that left three people dead at the Gilroy Garlic Festival on Monday, July 29, in Gilroy, California.
Robbie Ramirez, 10, holds on to his father, Robert Ramirez, during a vigil for victims of a Sunday evening shooting that left three people dead at the Gilroy Garlic Festival on Monday, July 29, in Gilroy, California.

GILROY, California (AP):

Only a few days ago, Gilroy was known for one thing: garlic. The rural community near San Francisco lived and breathed the prized, pungent crop.

Now it’s the site of the latest American mass shooting.

On Sunday evening, a 19-year-old gunman with apparently white supremacist views slipped into the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival and unloaded a military-style rifle before police shot him to death.

On Monday night, hundreds of residents held a candlelight vigil to mourn a six-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl and a New York college graduate who were slain. Twelve others were injured.

As they raised votive candles, long tapers or tea lights, they also raised their spirits in the defiant cry of “Gilroy Strong.”

A sign reading the same underneath an American flag covered in two garlic cloves hung from the front of the stage.

“We cannot let the bastard that did this tear us down,” Mayor Roland Velasco declared to cheers.

It was the cry heard so often after shootings at schools, parks, movies, nightclubs and festivals around the country.

From Washington, President Donald Trump condemned the “wicked murderer”.

The shooting brought out renewed demands for national gun control by politicians in California, which already has some of the strictest firearms laws in the nation. Governor Gavin Newsom called for controls on high-powered, high-capacity guns he labelled “weapons of mass destruction.”

“Today I met with a 12-year-old who was shot while in a bounce house. A grandmother mourning the loss of her six-year-old grandson,” Newsom tweeted. “This is America today — the shootings continue. Loved ones are buried. Children are gunned down. And Congress does nothing.”

“It keeps happening, over and over and over again, on their damn watch,” Newsom told reporters. “I can’t put borders up in a neighbouring state where you can buy this damn stuff legally.”

The shooter, Santino William Legan, legally purchased the semi-automatic military-style SKS rifle this month in Nevada, where his last address is listed. Under a California law that went into effect January 1, residents younger than 21 are barred from firearms purchases unless they are in the military or law enforcement. The minimum purchase age is 18 in Nevada, where firearms laws are less restrictive.