Gilroy Shooting Sparks Safety Concerns for County Fair

Just days after a gunman opened fire on a crowd at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, officials are beefing up security at this weekend’s Santa Clara County Fair.

Om Sunday evening 19-year-old Santino William Legan cut through a fence and fired his SKS rifle at festival-goers in Gilroy. Six-year old Stephen Romero, 13-year-old Keyla Salazar and 25-year old Trevor Irby were killed, and more than a dozen others were injured before law enforcement killed Legan.

While community members grapple with the tragedy, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office said it’s working to make sure that the public is safe at this weekend’s fair. The annual event will take place Thursday through Sunday and will be celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. In a press release Tuesday afternoon, the Sheriff’s Office said it’s working with the county executive and the Board of Supervisors to “provide an increased level of security for all attendees.”

“It is our continuing mission to provide a safe and welcoming environment for the residents and visitors of our county,” the statement said. “The Sheriff’s Office encourages everyone to come out and enjoy their time at this fun, family-friendly event.”

On Monday, County Supervisor Dave Cortese sent a letter to County Executive Jeff Smith, asking for a “confidential memorandum” prior to the fair’s opening about the event’s safety strategy. In an interview the following day, Cortese said he wants families to feel safe at the upcoming fair.

“It wasn’t a big leap to go from a garlic festival to a county fair,” he said about his concerns on public safety. “We haven’t really had to worry about it in the past until these patterns started to develop around mass shootings.”

Cortese said he hadn’t received a report yet, but when he did get his hands on a copy, he wouldn’t be shy about speaking out if anything raised a red flag.

Smith’s office also put out its own statement to quell the public’s nerves.

“We have reviewed security plans for the county fair and are working with the Sheriff’s Office to increase our vigilance and security measures this year,” it read. “We hope the community will attend the county fair and enjoy all the activities the fair has to offer.”

A spokesperson for the fairgrounds said they would be deferring all questions about safety concerns to the county’s sheriff and executive offices.

Although last weekend’s shooting has put many people on guard, lots of 4-H groups still plan on showing up and participating in the county fair’s many festivities. Susan Weaver, a 4-H representative, said she knows  many members who typically volunteer at the festival every year. Many of them, she said, are “shaken.”

“The shock is still so fresh,” she said. “I am grateful that the gunman is no longer a threat. Sadly, there is a risk no matter where we go.”

Even with the tragedy so fresh, Weaver said 4-H members were already at the fairgrounds getting ready for the competitions. “Everywhere we go, we should be aware and know our exits,” she added. “We must watch out for things out of place. I have heard the fairgrounds is increasing security as well. It’s an unpredictable world we live in.”

Grace Hase is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @grace_hase.

One Comment

  1. “It wasn’t a big leap to go from a garlic festival to a county fair,” says diminutive Dave Cortese.

    DAVE!!, the Garlic Festival draws a crowd. When’s the last time the County Fair had more than a handful. A handful of coppers should be able to take care of any problems. Now if you’d fund the fair as you should maybe we’d draw a crowd that matters.

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