Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting: What drove the shooter’s rampage? – Los Angeles Times

As authorities try to determine the motive for the Gilroy Garlic Festival attack, investigators believe their best chance is through the digital footprint of 19-year-old Santino William Legan, according to law enforcement sources.

Detectives have been looking through his social media, electronic devices and computer hardware but are still struggling to understand why he opened fire, killing three and leaving 12
hurt Sunday night at the famed food festival, the sources said.

“Our preeminent and principal concern is motivation, ideological leanings and was he affiliated with anyone or any group,” said Craig Fair, FBI assistant
special agent in charge of counterintelligence at the San Francisco office.

At a
news conference Tuesday, officials said the attack appears
pre-planned but that the motive is still unclear.

“We have no reason to believe at this point he was targeting any protected characteristics or any class,” Fair said. “We continue to try and understand who the shooter is and what motivated him and if he was aligned with any particular ideology.”

During the attack, someone shouted a pivotal question as he unleashed round after round from his AK-47 style assault rifle: why are you doing this?” He simply replied: “Because I am really angry!”

“Everyone wants to know the answer: Why?” Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said. “If there’s any affiliation with other people, or groups of people, that could potentially pose a threat in the future, that all plays in.”

Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting: What drove the shooter's rampage? - Los Angeles Times 1

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Kelly Ramirez, right hugs a mourner at a vigil outside Gilroy City Hall. “We cannot let the bastard who did this tear us down,” Mayor Roland Velasco said. “The person who did this took something from us.” 

(Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times)

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Robert Ramierz, 52, and his sons Robbie 10 and Andrew, 7 all from Gilroy, center, listen to speakers during a candlelight vigil on Monday. 

(Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times)

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A woman is overcome with grief during the singing of the National Anthem during a candlelight vigil at Gilroy City Hall on Monday. 

(Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times)

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A police officer photographs a car outside the home linked to the suspected Gilroy Garlic Festival gunman. 

(Noah Berger/Associated Press)

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FBI personnel pass a ticket booth at the Gilroy Garlic Festival Monday, July 29, 2019 in Calif., the morning after a gunman killed at least three people, including a 6-year-old boy, and wounding about 15 others. A law enforcement official identified the gunman, who was shot and killed by police, as Santino William Legan. (AP Photo/Noah Berger) 

(Noah Berger/AP)

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Law enforcement officials load paper bags gathered at a house in the 300 block of Churchill Place in Gilroy.  

(Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times)

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Two people stand outside the emergency entrance to St. Louise Regional Hospital on Sunday in Gilroy, Calif. A gunman opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival earlier in the day. 

(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

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A couple stands in a parking lot near the site of the mass shooting in Gilroy on Sunday. 

(Thomas Mendoza / Associated Press)

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People leave the festival following the shooting Sunday on the final day of the three-day event.  

(Nhat V. Meyer / Associated Press)

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Festival volunteer Denise Buessing, left, embraces fellow volunteer Marsha Struzik on Sunday at a reunification center in a parking lot at Gavilan College in Gilroy. 

(Josie Lepe / Associated Press)

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A police officer stands guard outside Gilroy High School, which is near the Christmas Hill Park festival site. Crisis counselors were set to be on hand at the school Monday, according to its website.  

(Nhat V. Meyer / Associated Press)

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Police officers escort people from Christmas Hill Park on Sunday night following the shooting.  

(Noah Berger / Associated Press)

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Grim festival attendees leave the Gilroy Garlic Festival by bus.  

(Josie Lepe / Associated Press)

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A woman stands in front of the emergency entrance of St. Louise Regional Hospital in Gilroy, Calif. 

(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

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Gilroy Garlic Festival executive director Brian Bowe pauses while addressing the media at a news conference in a parking lot at Gavilan College on Sunday. 

(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

That digital footprint in the case of the San Bernardino terror attacks that killed 14 and wounded 22 yielded a considerable history of aspiring to commit a holy war on America.

The killers in that case where so aware of their digital footprint they tossed away their laptop’s hard drive. But in the case of the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting that claimed 58 lives despite a year of investigation, Las Vegas police and the FBI were unable to ascribe a motive for Stephen Paddock’s rampage during the Route 91 Harvest music festival.

In letting Gilroy police be the lead agency, the FBI has already eliminated the prospect that Legan’s actions on their face were terrorist in nature as federal law requires for the bureau to lead such investigations.

Smithee, asked whether the victims were targeted, said Monday that it seemed “random.” But he cautioned that the motive remains unknown.

A study published by the Cal State San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism this month found that mass shooters frequently used sites like 8chan, Telegram, GAB and Facebook around the time of their attacks. It is not clear whether Legan used any of these sites, authorities say.

“Over the last decade, many of the most notorious extremist mass killers have participated in, or were influenced by, bigoted content on social media before undertaking attacks in their home regions,” said Brian Levin, the center’s director.

He cautioned that there are a lot of elements that can propel someone to carry out a violent act, not just one motivating factor. But young people who don’t belong to a specific hate group can self-radicalize through content from those groups easily found online, Levin said.

Michael Downing, a retired deputy chief with the Los Angeles Police Department’s counterterrorism unit, said digital footprints are a “critical tool” for law enforcement in shooting investigations where the gunman has died.

Downing, who is currently chief security officer with Oak View Group, said the individual’s online presence can be extremely telling for investigators who are tasked with piecing together the person’s motivations without being able to speak with them.

“A digital footprint shows what they are reading, who they are associating with and who they are influenced by,” he said.

If investigators can find a computer he regularly used, cyber forensic experts could quickly decipher his behavior and may be able to shed light on his motives, Downing said.

FBI spokeswoman Katherine Zackel said agents are also continuing to gather evidence at the crime scene, which is extensive. “It is a very large and complex scene,” she explained, noting that it could take several days. In the past, the bureau has flown evidence back to its Virginia lab for examination by a plethora of forensic experts.

Before the attack, he posted a photo on Instagram with the caption, “Ayyy garlic festival time come get wasted on overpriced …,” using an expletive.

He also posted a photo of a Smokey Bear sign warning about fire danger, with a caption instructing people to read an obscure novel glorified by white supremacists: “Might Is Right” published under the pseudonym Ragnar Redbeard. In his profile, which has since been deleted, Legan identified himself as being of Italian and Iranian descent.

The book, published in 1890, includes discredited principles related to social Darwinism that have been used to justify racism, slavery and colonialism, Levin said.

“The notion that people of color are biologically inferior is a key tenet of this book, and that biological determinism, the Darwinian view of the world, justifies aggression against diverse people and vulnerable people,” he said.

The famed festival was winding down when authorities allege that Legan crept past a creek and cut through a fence, bypassing entrance security, while armed with an AK-47-style rifle.

Soon after, he began spraying attendees with gunfire, authorities said, claiming three lives and wounding a dozen people. Within a minute, Legan was shot and killed as three police officers arrived and fired at him with their handguns.

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