LOS ANGELES (AP) – Event organizers should review their emergency plans after a deadly shooting at a California food festival to see if they can make additional safety improvements as the peak of summer and fair season culminates with a series of open-air events that are notoriously difficult to secure, law enforcement experts said.
The weekend shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival left three dead – including two children – and a dozen injured at the famous three-day event that attracts more than 100,000 people annually to the agricultural community in Northern California.
The festival included a perimeter fence, metal detectors, a bag search and police patrols. Santino William Legan, 19, cut through the fence and opened fire with an AK-47-style rifle before three officers fatally shot him in less than a minute.
“Anytime you put on a large event with a lot of people you’re always concerned, which is why we try to run a very tight, closed event where there’s, you know, controlled access,” Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said at a news conference Monday. “Do we think about how we’re going to respond if something were to happen? I would say the answer is yes.”
Experts ticked off a list of ideal precautions: a perimeter fence – or even two – with police patrols, as well as drones, security cameras, social media monitoring, bag checks, metal detectors, limited points of entry and an “overwatch” police unit that monitors the event from a high perch.
Recommendations for an overwatch position and securing beyond the site of the event are similar to suggested improvements after another deadly festival shooting: In 2017, a gunman on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas hotel fired into a concert crowd and killed 58 people.
It became the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. A review recommended securing high-rise buildings overlooking open-air venues, not just the festivals themselves.
“It’s not just OK to secure your perimeter and think you’re safe,” said Michael Downing, a former Los Angeles Police Department deputy chief.
Still, officials said first responders and event coordinators need to balance safety concerns, costs and a welcoming atmosphere for visitors, noting that eventgoers likely do not want to be subjected to extensive screening with X-ray machines and metal detectors.