Survivors recount California shooting; motive still unknown
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Two young women, co-workers enjoying a summer weekend with friends at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, were barefoot and goofing off in an inflatable obstacle course when suddenly a gunshot rang out.
Brynn Ota-Mathews and Gabriella Gaus spotted the fatigues-clad gunman and took off running, leaving their shoes and purses behind as the gunfire continued. They sprinted past portable toilets and into a parking lot as they felt bullets burn their skin.
A golf cart then ferried them to a stranger named John and his young son, who raced the wounded young women to the hospital.
“I just want to thank John,” Gaus said Thursday, pausing. “I hope that’s his name.”
Ota-Mathews, 23, and Gaus, 26, were two of 13 gunshot victims to survive the deadly attack Sunday. Five remain hospitalized and three — including two children — died.
The gunman, 19-year-old Santino William Legan, was wielding an AK-47-style semi-automatic rifle as he was shot and killed by police. The FBI still hasn’t determined his motive.
Police scanner traffic and 911 tapes from Sunday’s festival, obtained by The Salinas Californian, depict a chaotic scene as callers begged for aid.
“They just carried a body out,” a woman only identified as Kim yells into her phone as the 911 dispatcher says help is on the way.
Some of the wounded were rushed to St. Louise Regional Hospital, where doctors treated 26-year-old Gaus for gunshot wounds and scrapes. Ota-Mathews was later taken to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center with a bullet lodged in her liver.
Ota-Mathews was discharged Thursday with the news that the bullet will never be removed — along with the trauma that won’t go away.
“There isn’t a moment I’m awake I haven’t thought about this,” Gaus said at a hospital news conference Thursday, describing feelings of paranoia and mistrust. “It feels sickening to me every time I leave my house.”
Both women initially thought Legan looked like a “trained military professional” who was toting, inexplicably, a BB gun. They were surprised to hear he was a teenager — “a baby,” Ota-Mathews called the 19-year-old.
“It hurts me, it hurts me for his family,” she said.
Gaus said she wondered if the tragedy could have been avoided if someone had checked on the gunman’s mental well-being.
“That’s a reminder to me,” she said. “Check in on your friends.”
On Thursday, authorities had little information to offer at a news conference. Two profilers are working to determine a motive through interviews and physical and digital evidence as investigators comb through the massive crime scene that covers more than 25 acres, more than half of which has already been processed.
John Bennett, the FBI’s special agent in charge in San Francisco, said Legan did not appear to be targeting a particular group at the fair.
“It seems very random at this point,” Bennett said, noting that he did not seem to follow a specific ideology, either.
Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said the wounded count rose from 12 to 13 after authorities discovered another victim with a graze wound.
The chief also lauded the three veteran officers who shot and killed Legan — Eric Cryar, Hugo Del Moral and Robert Basuino — and called them heroes.
For Ota-Mathews and Gaus, they said they were “lucky enough” to stick together throughout the ordeal.
“I was like, ‘Don’t leave me,’” Gaus said before hugging her friend.