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Report: Officers’ actions ‘undoubtedly saved lives’ during Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting

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Hannah Fry
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — Three police officers acted lawfully when they shot a gunman who opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in a violent rampage last year that killed three people and wounded 17 others, according to a Santa Clara County district attorney report released Tuesday.

Thousands were in attendance at the popular food festival in the “Garlic Capital of the World” on July 28 when a gunman identified as 19-year-old Santino William Legan cut through a fence to bypass event security and unleashed a barrage of gunfire at attendees.

Legan was confronted by officers less than a minute after the shooting started. He was hit several times by rounds from the officers’ handguns before he delivered the fatal bullet from his own rifle. Under California law, officers are allowed to use deadly force when they or others are faced with imminent danger.

The officers “quite reasonably believed that they needed to use deadly force to protect innocent lives, and their own, from Legan’s violent rampage,” Deputy District Attorney Rob Baker wrote in the report. “Placing themselves, literally, in the line of fire to stop a mass murderer undoubtedly saved lives and prevented further bloodshed.”

Gilroy Detective Eric Cryar, Officer Robert Basuino and Officer Hugo Del Moral were patrolling the festival about 6:30 p.m. when they heard shots being fired from the gunman’s AK-47-style assault rifle and rushed to investigate.

Cryar was about to take a knee to fire when the gunman turned toward him and fired a round. The detective took cover behind a nearby barrel and fired at least 12 shots at the suspect. He fired three or four additional shots after the gunman appeared to be down because he didn’t know if the man was reloading or the gun had malfunctioned. Basuino and Del Moral also opened fire on the suspect. Cryar and Del Moral, who were wearing body-worn cameras that day, did not activate them before the shooting began because of the urgency of the situation, they told investigators.

“If we didn’t take the action that we took there could be a lot of dead people,” Cryar told investigators.

The assailant had entered the festival about a half-hour before it was set to close for the day and fired his rifle once into the ground. Witnesses told police that it appeared the gun malfunctioned and the gunman struggled with the weapon for 15 to 20 seconds before removing the magazine and inserting a new one. After reloading, he fatally shot 13-year-old Keyla Salazar, who was with her parents under a white tent near an inflatable slide.

The gunman then began firing rounds into the crowd in a counterclockwise fashion, the report states. Stephen Romero, 6, and Trevor Irby, 25, were fatally wounded.

The FBI and Gilroy police are still investigating the shooting as a possible act of domestic terrorism. Authorities launched the probe after officials discovered the gunman had a list of other potential targets including religious organizations, courthouses, federal buildings and political institutions involving both the Republican and Democratic parties.

“In light of the grave circumstances of this case, (law enforcement’s) actions were unquestionably lawful and justified,” Baker wrote.