Nation & World

Multiple victims reported in shooting at California food festival

Gilroy Garlic Festival attendees run for their lives as gunman opens fire

Emergency personnel work at the scene of a mass shooting Sunday during the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California. (Chris Smead/Reuters)
Emergency personnel work at the scene of a mass shooting Sunday during the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California. (Chris Smead/Reuters)

LOS ANGELES — Police were responding Sunday to reports of an active shooting at the famed Gilroy Garlic Festival in Northern California, leaving an unknown number of casualties and sending terrified visitors running for their lives.

Authorities said the scene was still active, with dozens of officers from around the region on the scene. President Donald Trump said on Twitter that “reports are that shooter has not yet been apprehended. Be careful and safe!”

Witnesses reported hearing multiple rounds fired and that some people were down on the ground. Others said the gunman was armed with a rifle and was dressed in some kind of vest and camouflage fatigues.

Officials reported that three air ambulances were sent to the scene. A medical center in San Jose said it was receiving at least five patients.

Taylor Pellegrini, 25, said she was sitting on a bench near the food court with her boyfriend and two friends when she heard what sounded like firecrackers. When the pops continued and people started running, she realized they were in danger.

“People were yelling ‘active shooter, active shooter,’ and some people tripped and stayed on the ground so bullets didn’t hit them,” she said. “People were under tables and dropping their phones and whatever they had in their hands.”

Pellegrini, who lives in Hollister, Calif., was able to get out quickly because she and her friends were close to the exit. As they walked to the nearby home of a friend, where they’d parked, they saw police officers racing through the streets.

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Pellegrini said security seemed weak at the popular three-day festival, which was set to end Sunday. Her bag was checked at the entrance, she said, but one of her friend’s was not.

“I feel really scared,” said Pellegrini, who favors the festival for its rich food and music. “It makes me not want to go anywhere anymore.”

Vivian Zhang, 24, said she was walking toward the exit with two friends when she heard pops and crackles, and then saw abrupt flashes of light. A truck they were standing next to was struck four times; bullets ricocheted off the ground.

That’s when they started running as fast as they could.

“They started putting all of us on the parking shuttles,” said Zhang, an Oakland resident. “To their credit, the volunteers running it were very responsive, they weren’t panicking.”

Everyone seemed disoriented, Zhang said. Parents grabbed their children as police ran into the crowd.

“It’s a whole entire group feeling of sheer terror,” said Emily Gifford, Zhang’s 23-year-old friend.

As Zhang was running, she said, she remembered thinking, “I am surviving a mass shooting right now, but I’m not even sure if that will be true in a moment.”

One of Zhang’s friends was at the 2017 Las Vegas music festival where 58 people were killed by a shooter. She remembers seeing Snapchat posts from the scene. Still, she never thought this could be her reality, especially at a community event in rural California.

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“It was getting closer and closer to home,” she said. “And now it happened to us.”

Videos from the scene showed people running and screaming across the festival grounds.

“Please pray everyone. Random shooters started shooting everywhere,” one person tweeted. “One boy is dead so far and others injured. We’re still waiting while they find them.”

There were also several reports on social media about multiple injuries.

“Scariest moments of my life at the Gilroy garlic festival,” one person tweeted. “I hope everyone made it out okay.”

Another witness, Julissa Contreras, told NBC Bay Area that she saw a white man in his early to mid-30s firing a rifle that was “able to shoot three to four shots a second.”

“It was just rapid firing,” she said. “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. ... He definitely was prepared for what he was doing.”

As of 8:30 p.m., there were no reports of an arrest in the shooting. Police also had not released any information about the shooter.

Founded in 1979, the Gilroy Garlic Festival bills itself as “the world’s greatest summer food festival.” The three-day event, held at Christmas Hill Park in the town southeast of San Jose, is hosted by community volunteers and raises money for local schools, charities and nonprofit organizations.

The festival attracts tens of thousands of people every year to the Santa Clara County town of 48,000.

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Gilroy police said on Twitter: “The hearts of Gilroy PD and entire community go out to the victims of today’s shooting at the Garlic Festival. The scene is still active. If you are looking for a loved one, please go to the reunification center at Gavilan College at parking lot B.”

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