6-Year-Old Stephen Romero Shot At Gilroy Garlic Festival Is Youngest Shooting Victim

Photo: getty
6-Year-Old Stephen Romero Shot At Gilroy Garlic Festival Is Youngest Shooting Victim

Gun violence is a common occurrence in America, with 100 people dying of gun injuries every day.  Headlines about shootings at peaceful locations resulting in multiple victims are all too frequent. Just this past weekend, a shooter, possibly motivated by far-right ideology, opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Northern California. Three people were left dead and 12 were wounded. The youngest victim was 6-years-old.

The youngest victim was Stephen Romero, who was at the event with his mother and grandmother, both of whom were also injured. His father, who was not present, simply said afterward: “My son had his whole life to live and he was only six. That’s all I can say.”

Who was Stephen Romero and what happened at the Gilroy Garlic Festival? Read on for all the tragic details.

1. The Gilroy Garlic Festival

In the wake of the shooting, the website for the festival contains only a statement about the tragedy. Wikipedia explains that the event is a three day food festival that has been held annually since 1979.  Hundreds of thousands of people attend the event every year and local groups use it as a platform for fundraising and building community spirit.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Denise Kleen (@dennykleen) on Jul 30, 2019 at 3:22am PDT

The festival is a popular three day event.

2. Celebrities enjoy the festival

Among the thousands of people who attend the event are celebrities and media personalities. This year, Real Housewives star Teresa Guidice stopped by and was shocked when the festival erupted in violence the following day. She posted her heartbreak to social media, offering prayers to everyone involved. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Teresa Giudice ® (@teresagiudice) on Jul 28, 2019 at 8:18pm PDT

The reality star offered thoughts and prayers.

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3. A mass shooting

On Sunday, the final day of the 2019 festival, a man armed with a rifle that is banned in California, cut through a fence and entered the grounds of the event. A witness,  Julissa Contreras, told NBC that she saw "your average white guy" firing what appeared to be a semi-automatic rifle, "kind of just going left to right and shooting whoever he could, honestly.”

The shooter was killed by officers on the scene for security purposes but not before he had murdered three people and injured a dozen more.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) on Jul 28, 2019 at 11:06pm PDT

Festival goers were shocked at the violence.

4. Stephen Romero killed

In a horrifying echo of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, a six-year-old boy was one of the victims of the violence. Romero’s father told reporters that he had recently finished kindergarten and “always happy and always wanting to have fun.” Romero’s mother and grandmother were also injured in the shooting. His father and older sister were home that day.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by k & s (@youarewhatafeministlookslike) on Jul 29, 2019 at 3:23pm PDT

Stephen Romero was going into first grade. 

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5. Police press conference

The LA Times reports that police were on scene when the shooting started and it took only minutes for the gunman to be killed by officers. However, the semi-automatic weapon he used was able to shoot multiple victims in a matter of  seconds, leading to tremendous damage and loss of life before officers could even respond. As Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee explained, officers arrived at the shooting in less than a minute and stopped him “despite the fact that they were outgunned, with their handguns, against a rifle.”

Smithee seems aware of the kind of damage rifles like the one used in Gilroy can do and he told reporters, “We had thousands of people there in a very small area. It could have gotten so much worse, so fast.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by KSBW (@ksbw_8) on Jul 29, 2019 at 11:01am PDT

Police responded quickly.

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6. Illegal weapons across state lines

California Governor Gavin Newsom talked about the incident and noted that, even though California has taken steps to eliminate high-capacity rifles for the safety of Californians, neighboring states have not. The shooter allegedly bought the rifle legally in Nevada and simply brought it back across the state line. There are no safeguards against such actions, which lead to the transporting to weapons over state lines all across the country. As Newsom said to the LA Times: “You can’t put borders up, speaking of borders, to a neighboring state where you can buy this damn stuff legally. How in the hell is that possible? I have no problem with the Second Amendment. You have a right to bear arms, but not weapons of goddamned mass destruction.”

The owner of the store where the shooter bought the gun posted to Facebook that he sold the gun legally and only had the shooter’s demeanor to go on at the point of sale. “I did not know this individual. He ordered the rifle off my internet page. When I did see him, he was acting happy and showed no reasons for concern. I would never ever sell any firearm to anyone who acted wrong or looks associated with any bad group like white power.” As this incident demonstrates, there is really no good way to tell what is in a person’s mind when they buy a weapon, whether they can pass a background check or not.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Jen (@jen.reis.incandela) on Jul 30, 2019 at 5:11am PDT

California has stricted gun laws than neighboring states.

7. Right wing radical?

At the moment, police have not speculated about a motive for why the shooter, identified as 19-year-old Santino William Legan, went on his killing spree. His Instagram page has been deleted since the killings but there are reports that one photo features him recommending a book from the 1800s called "Might is Right," CBS news reports that the book claims that race determines behavior and is popular among white nationalists and far-right extremist groups.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by  Morgana  (@raven_zane_amadeo) on Jul 29, 2019 at 8:58pm PDT

The shooter may have been motivated by racism.

Police are still trying to piece together what led the shooter to commit this act of horrific violence. If you have any information about about the shooting, please call the witness hotline at 408-846-0583. 

Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. Her work has been seen at Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, The Mid, Redbook online, and The Broad Side. She is the creator of the blog Stay at Home Pundit and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.