GILROY (AP) — Negligent security measures allowed a gunman to sneak in and fatally shoot three people and wound 13 others at the Gilroy Garlic Festival last summer, five of the injured victims claim in a lawsuit.
Santino William Legan cut through a fence at the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival and opened fire with a rifle July 28, authorities have said. The FBI has not determined a motive, saying Legan, 19, appeared to be interested in conflicting violent ideologies. It has opened a domestic terrorism case into the shooting.
The lawsuit says the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association failed to follow federal guidelines for securing outdoor venues and should have known an active shooter was a “foreseeable” risk.
The festival had security measures including the fence, metal detectors, a bag search and police patrols, officials have said. Three officers quickly confronted Legan, who killed himself.
The plaintiffs’ Attorney Randall Scarlett told KPIX the temporary security fence at the perimeter of the festival did not have any coverings, cameras and was unmanned.
“People are sneaking in this way all the time,” Scarlett claimed. “Everyone down there knew this was a way to get into the festival for free.”
The lawsuit states “…this horrific incident was facilitated by, and made possible by the negligent acts of the defendants.”
“You and I and anyone else who go to these events should be secure. Now at some point, it’s cost prohibitive,” said Scarlett. “And we’re not asking for everything in the world, but we are asking for more than just a football length’s…There’s got to be something more than this.”
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages above $25,000, was filed late Monday in state court against the nonprofit association, the festival’s security contractor and 100 unnamed defendants.
The Festival Association issued a statement in response to the lawsuit Tuesday afternoon.
“The lawsuit filed today stemming from a horrific act of domestic terrorism, is not unexpected, and we will respond through the appropriate legal channels,” the statement read. “As a non-profit organization, we must remain focused on our mission: fundraising for the entire community of Gilroy and the more than 150 charities that rely on us.”
One of the victims, Wendy Towner, said Tuesday she spent weeks in the hospital after being shot.
“I don’t know what medical bills we’re going to have in the future and what surgeries we might need,” she said at a news conference at her lawyer’s office. “Lots of surgeries, skin graphs, nerve graphs. The bullet hit my bone ricocheted and blew off half of my calf.”
Towner was the first person who was hit during the shooting along with her longtime partner, Francisco Aguilera.
So far, their medical bills total more than $2 million each. Towner remembered and the first time she heard about the fence.
“I feel violated. I want to make sure that we are all safe,” said Towner. “I want to make sure that we don’t have this problem again. That all the other festivals take note and figure out what they can do to stop in something like this from happening again in the future.”
While medical costs for each victim are “millions of dollars each,” attorney Scarlett said his clients are more concerned with the safety of future events than a monetary award.
“You can’t have that many people from the public and claim ‘I’m a small town.’ You can’t do it,” said Scarlett. “If you’re gonna have 85,000 people in your backyard, you better protect them.”
Scarlett said he is also preparing a government claim, the precursor to a lawsuit, against the city of Gilroy.
Representatives for the association could not immediately be reached for comment.
© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.