Leaders and residents of Gilroy vowed at a community vigil Monday night not to let a gunman and his deadly attack on a garlic festival define their city and its distinctive annual celebration.
“We cannot let the bastard who did this tear us down,” Gilroy Mayor Roland Velasco told hundreds of people who had gathered to mourn the three people killed in Sunday’s rampage.
The crowd, many with people wearing newly printed #gilroystrong T-shirts, loudly cheered the call for resilience and defiance in the shadow of the city’s library.
“The person who did this took something from us,” Velasco said. “They took a small-town festival that has generated millions of dollars over 41 years, and took that from us.”
The city wouldn’t let its unity be taken away, he said.
Three people, including two children, died and a dozen more were wounded Sunday at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. Stephen Romero, 6, Keyla Salazar, 13, and Trevor Irby, who officials said was in his 20s, died in Sunday’s attack, and five of the 12 people wounded remained hospitalized Monday, medical officials said.
Police officers shot and killed the gunman, a Gilroy resident. Authorities and witnesses said the suspect, identified Monday as 19-year-old Santino William Legan, wore tactical gear and was armed with a military-style rifle.
Legan appeared to have cut through a fence that surrounded the festival, Gilroy police Chief Scot Smithee said.
Speakers at the vigil memorialized the victims and talked about their experiences during the attack. They prayed, denounced hatred, thanked police and emergency workers, addressed gun politics and read quotes from Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
Residents lit hundreds of candles and chanted “Gilroy strong!” as the sun set on the Northern California city, about 30 miles southeast of San Jose.
“When the world looks at Gilroy, California, the garlic capital of the world, what are they going to say? Yes, Gilroy strong, but they’re also going to say that we’re a beacon of hope,” said Richard Ruiz, a Gilroy native who addressed the crowd.
“We’re like the Statue of Liberty, but instead of holding a flame, we’re probably holding a head of garlic,” he said.
The Garlic Festival, which raises money for local charities, draws as many as 100,000 people and boosts local garlic growers. It is “the best of Gilroy,” said City Council member Peter Leroe-Munoz.
“The Garlic Festival is our annual showcase to the world — and to ourselves about the best we can be,” he said.
Kelly Ramirez, a resident who was at the festival during the shooting, said that because of the scale of the episode, everyone in the city now counts as a survivor of gun violence.