Why the FBI opened a domestic terrorism investigation into Garlic Festival shooting

Gilroy Garlic Festival Shooting

GILROY (KRON) — The FBI opened a domestic terrorism investigation into the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting that left three people dead and several others injured.

At this time, the reason behind why 19-year-old Santino William Legan opened fire at the festival is still unclear, FBI Special Agent John Bennett said Tuesday. However, the FBI has decided to investigate the incident as domestic terrorism.

Here’s why:

‘Violent Ideologies’

Bennett said the FBI has uncovered evidence throughout course of investigation that the gunman was “exploring violent ideologies.”

However, they have not determined which ideology he settled on.

“We have seen a fractured ideology,” Bennett explains. “The shooter appeared to have an interest in varying competing violent ideologies.”

List of targets

Bennett said investigators uncovered a list of organizations that may have been potential targets of violence.

Bennett did not reveal which specific groups were targeted but said the list included organizations from across the country including:

  • Religious institutions
  • Federal buildings
  • Courthouses
  • Political organizations from both major political parties
  • Gilroy Garlic Festival

Even though the threat appears to be mitigated by the shooter’s death, the FBI still notifying the individuals on the list of potential acts of violence.

Bennett said due to this list, the FBI has opened full domestic terrorism investigation into the mass shooting.

Striving to find answers

The FBI is reviewing the shooter’s digital media to help answer the following questions:

  • What, if any, ideology did he actually settled on?
  • Who, if anyone, he may have been in contact with regarding these ideologies?
  • Who, if anyone, helped him or had advance knowledge of his intentions?
  • Why he committed this specific act of violence?

Bennett emphasized that one piece of evidence does not necessarily constitute a motive, hence the need for a thorough methodical investigation.

Why didn’t the FBI open a domestic terrorism investigation sooner?

Bennett said an act of violence does not necessarily give the FBI legal authority to open such investigation.

According to Bennett, a federal domestic terrorism case requires several things:

  • Existence of potential federal violation
  • Requires unlawful use of force or violence or the threat of force or violence 
  • The existence of ideological motivation

Bennett said having a belief system and also committing an act of violence does not make it terrorism, nor does it give a clear motive.

Gunman’s social media posts

Legan appears to have posted two photos on Instagram the day of the shooting, including one just minutes before he opened fire.

Legan’s since-deleted Instagram account says he is Italian and Iranian.

It also shows a photo he posted earlier depicting Smokey the Bear in front of a “fire danger” sign.

In the caption, Legan said to read “Might is Right,” a book published in the 1800s.

The philosophy says that whoever is strongest is morally right.

Minutes before the shooting, he posted a photo from the festival: “Ayyy garlic festival time” and “come get wasted on overpriced (stuff).”

FBI sets record straight on rumors

Last week, the FBI gave an impromptu press briefing to set the record straight about rumors circulating about shooter.

“Some of the reporting that is coming out of there is wrong…specific to ideology.” Bennett said.

Bennett called the rumors that radical Islamic and white supremacist writings were found during a search of the shooter’s apartment “erroneous and incorrect.”

He said they found material in his apartment but to call it ideology in one way or another is incorrect.

“Just because someone has a book in their house doesn’t mean they’re leaning one way or another,” he said.

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