‘Complete chaos’ erupts at Gilroy Garlic Festival as gunman opens fire, witnesses say

Attendees at the Gilroy Garlic Festival recounted scenes of panic, confusion and “complete chaos” when gunfire rang out at the Northern California event Sunday evening.

At least three people, including a 6-year-old boy, were killed after the shooting broke out as the annual food festival began to wind down. Twelve injuries were reported.

The gunman was also killed, police said.

Julissa Contreras said the gunman fired “three to four shots a second” into the crowd from a rifle, NBC News reported.

“It was just rapid firing,” Contreras said, according to the network. “I could see him shooting in just every direction. He wasn’t aiming at anyone specifically. It was just left to right, right to left. He definitely was prepared for what he was doing.”

Lex De La Herran said he heard multiple gunshots and saw smoke in the air after turning away from the festival stage, CNN reported.

“Initially I thought it was fireworks,” he said, according to the network. “People started screaming and running, I instinctively did the same. It was complete chaos.”

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Shrapnel struck him in the head as he ran, De La Herran told CNN.

“I remember seeing a whole stampede of people running, jumping fences,” he said, according to the network. “Some man screamed, ‘Those are real!’ ”

The initial gunshots also sounded like firecrackers to Taylor Pellegrini, who was sitting near the food court, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“People were yelling ‘active shooter, active shooter,’ and some people tripped and stayed on the ground so bullets didn’t hit them,” Pellegrini said, according to the publication. “People were under tables and dropping their phones and whatever they had in their hands.”

Christian Swain, a member of one of the final bands to perform, told CNN he heard “about three pops” to the left of the stage about halfway into a song.

“All of a sudden, there was a whole volley of shots,” he said.

Band members ran and crawled beneath the stage until police arrived, he told the network. Police secured the area within five or six minutes, he said.

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.