AP

FBI Opens Domestic Terrorism Investigation into Gilroy Garlic Festival Mass Shooting

August 06, 2019 - 11:29 am
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The FBI is opening a domestic terrorism investigation into the shooting that killed three people, including two children, at a popular California food festival, a law enforcement official said Tuesday.

Nineteen-year-old gunman Santino William Legan fatally shot three people with a Romanian-made AK-47-tyle rifle before turning the gun on himself on July 28 at the popular Gilroy Garlic Festival. Thirteen others were injured.

The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation before a news conference and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The person could not immediately give specifics about why the FBI is opening a domestic terrorism case.

Legan's family released a statement to the public Tuesday: 

"Our family is deeply shocked and horrified by the actions of our son. To the families of Stephen Romero, Keyla Salazar, Trevor Irby, and to the injured that survived this tragedy, we cannot begin to describe our despair at his actions. We want to express our deepest and sincerest apologies for the loss and pain that he has caused.

We have never and would never condone the hateful thoughts and ideologies that led to this event, and it is impossible to reconcile this with the son we thought we knew. Our son is gone, and we will forever have unanswered questions as to how or why any of this has happened.

We are heartbroken that he committed this violence in his hometown, at a family event meant to celebrate the tight-knit community we have been a part of for twenty years.

Every single member of our family has cooperated with the investigation and will continue to cooperate.

We also want to thank all of our friends in the community, and people we have never met, who have sent us messages of support and compassion for what has occurred. Thanks to all of you.

To the City of Gilroy and to everyone affected, we are tremendously sorry. No words can begin to express this."

Authorities have not yet disclosed a possible motive in the case.

A separate mass shooting that killed 22 people at a crowded El Paso, Texas, store over the weekend is also being handled as a domestic terrorism case.

The FBI's move in Gilroy came as Keyla Salazar's family was set to hold a funeral mass Tuesday for the 13-year-old in San Jose.

Federal investigators have fewer tools and legal powers at their disposal in domestic terrorism cases than they do if they are up against someone tied to an international organization such as the Islamic State or al-Qaida.

Law enforcement officials conducting international terrorism investigations, for instance, can get a secret surveillance warrant to monitor the communications of a person they think may be an agent of a foreign power or terror group.

Similarly, the U.S. criminal code makes it a crime for anyone to lend material support to designated foreign terror organizations, including the Islamic State and al-Qaida, even if the investigation doesn't involve accusations of violence.

There's no domestic counterpart to that material support statute, meaning federal prosecutors must rely on hate crimes laws, weapons charges and other approaches that may not carry the terrorism label. Mere membership in, or support for, a white supremacist organization is not illegal.