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Six-year-old among three dead in California food festival shooting

Steven Romero was just six-years-old when he was fatally shot. Credit: Albert Romero

A gunman has killed three people at a popular food festival in California, including a six-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl, and injured 12 others before police shot him dead, authorities said.

Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said Santino William Legan, 19, appeared to randomly target people when he fired with a rifle on Sunday afternoon, the end of the three-day Gilroy Garlic Festival.

Legan had cut through a fence and opened fire on a crowd eating and listening to music.

Police responded in less than a minute and he turned his “assault-type rifle” on the officers, Mr Smithee said. Three officers fired back and killed Legan, who had bought the gun legally this month in Nevada.

Fifteen people were injured in the shooting, the casualties are believed to include Steven's mother and grandmother.

Police at the scene of the shooting. Credit: AP

Steven Romero had recently celebrated his birthday at Legoland in California. His father, Alberto Romero, told NBC News: "My son had his whole life to live and he was only six. That’s all I can say."

Mr Romero said his son was "always happy and always wanted to have fun".

Police in the town of Gilroy, which is around 80 miles south-east of San Francisco, said the suspected gunman, who is believed to have opened fire with a rifle, had been shot dead.

Police Chief Scot Smithee said that witnesses reported a second suspect, but it was unclear whether that person opened fire.

Mr Smithee said the suspects had used a tool to cut through a fence to get into the annual garlic festival.

He said it took police less than a minute to engage the suspect.

He said one of the suspects opened fire and police and officers in the area confronted the suspect in less than a minute.

Witnesses reported confusion and panic as shots rang out at the Gilroy Garlic Festival which attracts around 100,000 to the city of just 50,000.

The shooting occurred during the annual garlic festival, a three-day celebration featuring food, cooking competitions and music.

Sunday was the final day of this year’s event.

People leave the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California following a deadly shooting. Credit: Nhat V Meyer/San Jose Mercury News/AP

The band Tin Man was just starting an encore when shots rang out.

Singer Jack van Breen said he saw a man wearing a green shirt and greyish handkerchief around his neck fire into the food area with what looked like an assault rifle.

Mr Van Breen and other members of the band dove under the stage.

He said he heard someone shout: "Why are you doing this?" and the reply: "Because I'm really angry."

His bandmate Vlad Malinovsky, from Walnut Creek, California, said he heard a lot of shots and then it stopped.

Another witness said: "It was total chaos. We heard the shots, we were less than 200ft from the active shooter."

He continued: "As soon as I heard it, people were screaming."

Later, law enforcement came by and told the band members and others hiding with them to come out with their hands up.

Stanford Medical Centre said it was treating two people who were injured in the shooting, but gave no details on their injuries or conditions.

Santa Clara Valley Medical Centre received five victims, but again gave no information on their conditions.

It is not known where the other injured people are being treated.

People at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California following a mass shooting Credit: Nhat V Meyer/San Jose Mercury News/AP

Evenny Reyes of Gilroy, 13, told the Mercury News that she spent the day at the festival with her friends and relatives.

“We were just leaving and we saw a guy with a bandana wrapped around his leg because he got shot, and there were people on the ground, crying,” she said.

“There was a little kid hurt on the ground.

"People were throwing tables and cutting fences to get out.”

She said that she did not run at first because the gunshots sounded like fireworks.

“It started going for five minutes, maybe three.

"It was like the movies – everyone was crying, people were screaming.”

Police stand guard outside Gilroy High School Credit: Nhat V Meyer/San Jose Mercury News/AP

Todd Jones, a sound engineer, told the newspaper that he was at the front of the festival’s Vineyard stage when he heard what sounded like a firework.

“But then it started to increase, more rapidly, which sounded more like gunfire, and at that point people realised what was happening,” he said.

Natalie Martinez, a Gilroy resident, told the newspaper that she had gone to get food and separated from her two daughters.

“I ran to find the girls and we basically ran into each other.

“I thought: 'We’re open prey.'

"It was awful.”

Video first posted on social media sites about 5.30pm local time showed people running for safety at the festival.

Agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives responded to the scene of the shooting.

The Gilroy Police Department on its Twitter account issued a statement saying: “The hearts of Gilroy PD and entire community go out to the victims of today’s shooting at the Garlic Festival.”

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President Donald Trump condemned the “wicked murderer”.

“We express our deepest sadness and sorrow for the families who lost a precious loved one in the horrific shooting last night in Gilroy, California,” he said before an event at the White House.

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Gilroy is a city of roughly 50,000 that is dubbed the “Garlic capital of the world”.