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The man who shot and killed three people and injured 15 others at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Northern California last week had a large stockpile of ammunition, a list of high-profile targets, and ideological motivations, according to the FBI.
The government now has enough evidence to open a domestic terror investigation into the shooting, whose victims included a six-year-old boy.
“The shooter had an interest in various competing, violent ideologies,” FBI special agent in charge John Bennett said at a press conference. “As we continue to exploit his digital media, we are striving to find several things: what, if any, he had settled on. Who he might have been in contact with regarding these ideologies.”
Law enforcement still hasn’t settled on a motive for the Gilroy shooter and stayed tight-lipped about the nature of his ideological leanings — but they haven’t ruled out white nationalism. The shooter posted slurs on Instagram about minorities and made misogynistic comments about Silicon Valley employees, according to reports after the shooting. He also allegedly wrote favorably about a white supremacist manifesto.
Earlier this week, Gilroy police also arrested a local man who made apparent threats online referencing the Gilroy Garlic shooting.
“An act of violence alone, large scale and horrifying, does not necessarily give us legal authority to open a federal terrorism investigation,” Bennett said. “It requires the unlawful use of force or violence, or the threat of unlawful use of force or violence, an existence of ideological motivation, having a belief system.”
To the Gilroy shooter’s family, his beliefs came as a shock.
“We have never and would never condone the hateful thoughts and ideologies that led to this event,” they wrote in a released a statement on Tuesday afternoon. “It is impossible to reconcile this with the son we thought we knew.”
The Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting was the first of three mass shootings in the U.S. in under a week. In the days following, a combined total of 31 people were killed in shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio
The FBI has opened up a domestic terror investigation into the El Paso Walmart shooting, and law enforcement said Tuesday that the man who opened fire outside a bar in Dayton had “violent ideologies,” which opens up the potential for federal involvement in the case.
The government has legal authority to open domestic terror investigations, which allow them additional resources in a case — but the U.S. currently has no domestic terror statute. Even if law enforcement concludes that the El Paso or Gilroy Garlic Festival shooters fall into the definition of domestic terrorism, prosecutors will have to pursue alternative charges.
71 rounds left
The 19-year-old who opened fired on the Garlic festival fired 39 rounds in total during his July 28 rampage. He was armed with a Romanian-made AK-47-style rifle, illegal in California but purchased legally in Nevada. He was also carrying a 75-drum magazine with 71 rounds left.
Police also found multiple 40-round magazines on him and on the ground. He had a Remington 870 shotgun in his car, and his backpack, discovered in a nearby creek, contained a flashlight, a shovel, a rifle scope, and more ammunition.
Law enforcement also searched “several devices” and uncovered a list of the shooters’ potential targets, which included religious institutions federal buildings, court houses, and political organizations associated with major parties across the country.
Police also cleared up initial reports that the shooter had turned the gun on himself. Even though he was wearing a bullet-resistant vest, the 19-year-old died after being struck multiple times by officer fire.
Cover image: A mourner cries while attending a funeral for Keyla Salazar, 13, on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. Salazar and two others were killed when a gunman opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival July 28. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)