CRIME

Gilroy Garlic Festival Shooting Survivors Sue Event Organizers, Security

An attorney for five survivors says festival organizers failed to secure the event's perimeters and to protect people from "the foreseeable risks of mass shootings."

Survivors of the mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival over the summer are suing the event’s organizers and the security company hired to work the event.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of five survivors, claims organizers and security staff failed to “adhere to the most basic security requirements” and did not adequately secure the festival’s perimeters in the city of Gilroy, California.

The suit lists the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association and First Alarm Security and Patrol, Inc. as defendants, saying they failed to protect attendees from “the foreseeable risks of mass shootings.” The complaint was filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court on Tuesday.

“This lawsuit is about the tragic results that did and will needlessly continue to occur if event organizers ... do not take appropriate and reasonable security measures to make the event reasonably safe when putting on large events,” the suit reads.

A makeshift memorial outside the site of the Gilroy Garlic Festival, where a shooter killed three people and injured at least
A makeshift memorial outside the site of the Gilroy Garlic Festival, where a shooter killed three people and injured at least a dozen others.

On July 28, a gunman cut through a fence at the garlic festival, which is held every year, and opened fire on attendees. The shooter killed a 6-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl and a 25-year-old man. Twelve others, including the five plaintiffs in the lawsuit, were injured. 

Police officers shot and killed the gunman, 19-year-old Santino William Legan, within minutes of receiving reports of gunfire. It was the final day of the festival.

“They had an entire back area [that] had no monitoring whatsoever. They had a small, flimsy chainlink fence,” the survivors’ attorney Randall Scarlett said at a press conference Tuesday. “Had they even had any security measures at that area, it not only could have deterred this kid from coming in but it certainly would have alerted” event security of his presence.

Scarlett said the survivors in the lawsuit are facing medical bills that amount to “millions of dollars each.”

A Gilroy Garlic Festival Association spokesperson told HuffPost in a statement that the organization had been expecting a lawsuit. 

“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 association said. “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.”

First Alarm Security and Patrol declined to comment for this story.

The next Gilroy Garlic Festival, which showcases the city’s garlic dishes, local music and the Miss Gilroy Garlic Festival scholarship pageant, is scheduled to take place again in July 2020.

A note on the festival’s website mentions the deadly shooting:

“The Gilroy Garlic Festival has always brought our local community together, and we are united in honoring those whose lives were lost and forever changed by the tragedy on July 28, 2019.”

Wendy Towner, one of the first people to be shot at the festival, said at a news conference that she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has not been able to attend large events since the shooting. She said she hopes that the festival organizers improve their safety measures for future events.

“To be honest with you, I have not returned to a big event yet,” Towner told reporters on Tuesday. “I haven’t been able to bring myself to it.”