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FBI will open domestic terrorism investigation into Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting

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Evgen_Prozhyrko/iStock(GILROY, Calif.) — The FBI on Tuesday said they will open a domestic terrorism investigation into the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting that left three people dead, officials said.

The suspect, Santino William Legan, 19, intended to target other churches, religious groups political parties and other organizations that are nationwide, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) official said on Tuesday, declining to identify additional suspected targets.

“The FBI and the Gilroy Police Department have uncovered a list of organizations on the suspect’s digital media, that may have been potential targets of violence,” John Bennett, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the bureau’s San Francisco field office said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Three people — ages 6 to 25 — were killed in the attack on July 29, when Legan allegedly opened fire on the festival.

Meanwhile, on the same day that the FBI announced their domestic terrorism investigation, the family of the man authorities say committed the murders issued a statement of apology to the families of the victims and the city of Gilroy.

“Our family is deeply shocked and horrified by the actions of our son,” Legan’s family said in a statement released by a family attorney to San Francisco ABC station KGO. “To the families of Stephen Romero, Keya Salazar, Trevor Irby, and to the injured that survived this tragedy, we cannot begin to describe our despair at his actions.”

The statement goes on to say that “it is impossible to reconcile this with the son we thought we knew.”

“To the City of Gilroy and to everyone affected, we are tremendously sorry,” the statement concludes. “No words can begin to express this.”

Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said on Tuesday that authorities found a shotgun in Legan’s car, and the shooter’s bag was found in the creek nearby — with two loose rounds, a scope in the bag, a flashlight, a shovel and two additional 40 round magazines and four loose magazines that belonged to the shotgun.

Bennett said that no manifesto by this shooter has been located, and authorities haven’t yet determined a motive.

The suspect had a 75-round drum magazine — with 71 rounds left in the drum — and two 40 round magazines on his body. Two more 40 round magazines were found on the ground, Smithee said.

Bennett said that “everything” is being done with the victims in mind.

Last week, Bennett cited “erroneous reporting,” and said there’s been no determination yet on any ideology of the suspect.

The domestic terrorism investigation comes after renewed calls from Congress and the FBI Agents Association — which represents nearly 14,000 active and former FBI agents — to look at cases from a domestic terrorism perspective.

In seperate letters sent on Tuesday, the two ranking senators on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) pushed the FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ) on ways to combat domestic terrorists.

The letters ask FBI Director Wray and Attorney General William Barr to respond to a letter they sent in May regarding information on how the DOJ and FBI tracks data on domestic terrorists.

FBI Agents Association president Brian O’Hare called on Congress to codify domestic terrorism as a federal crime.

“Domestic terrorism is a threat to the American people and our democracy. Acts of violence intended to intimidate civilian populations or to influence or affect government policy should be prosecuted as domestic terrorism regardless of the ideology behind them,” O’Hare said in a statement. “FBIAA continues to urge Congress to make domestic terrorism a federal crime. This would ensure that FBI Agents and prosecutors have the best tools to fight domestic terrorism.”

The Gilroy shooting happened a week before the shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio which left more than 31 dead.

Smithee said that he finds it sad that people commit such violent crimes targeting strangers.

“I can only imagine what they are going through.”

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