FBI Opens Domestic Terrorism Investigation Into Gilroy Shooting

In and amongst the crowded news cycle, the shooting last week in Gilroy, California is almost getting lost. That’s not surprising, unfortunately. After all, there were two large shootings within just hours of one another, something that doesn’t really happen. Further, both shootings had a higher death toll, and in the media, the adage “if it bleeds, it leads,” still holds true.

However, Gilroy still happened.

The FBI hasn’t forgotten, either. Now it seems they’re opening a domestic terrorism investigation regarding that tragedy.

The FBI has opened a full domestic terrorism investigation into the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting in Northern California, citing the deceased gunman’s “target list” and interest in “violent ideologies.”

John F. Bennett, FBI special agent in charge of the San Francisco field office, said at a Tuesday press conference that the suspect, 19-year-old Santino William Legan, left behind on his digital media a list of organizations that “may have been potential targets of violence.”

“These organizations across the country include religious institutions, federal buildings, courthouses, political organizations from both major political parties, and the Gilroy Garlic Festival,” Mr. Bennett said. “Even though the threat appears to have been mitigated by the subject’s death, the FBI has a responsibility to notify individuals and organizations of potential threats or acts of violence.”

He also said that the suspect “appeared to have an interest in varying, competing violent ideologies,” although authorities provided no details.

“One piece of evidence does not necessarily constitute a motive, hence the need for a thorough, methodical investigation,” Mr. Bennett said.

“Having a belief system and also committing an act of violence does not necessarily make that an act of terrorism nor does it give a clear motive,” Mr. Bennett said. “We have to determine that individual’s ideology caused them to commit the act of violence in furtherance of their political and social goals.”

While many have tried to paint the suspect as a white nationalist, probably to try and link his actions to that of the El Paso shooter, the FBI continues to rebut that.

If the killer sought to target members of both political parties, that does suggest that either he lacked a coherent ideology or that he had an ideology motivating him that exists well outside of the right/left paradigm most Americans think in. The fact that his targets were so broad yet still falling within the kinds of places we’d think of as being terrorism targets hints that there was some kind of ideology.

Whether we’d understand it or even recognize it, however, may be another matter entirely.

Should the investigation find that this was actually a case of domestic terrorism, we probably need to know that. This is especially true if there’s some warped ideology behind it that we’ve never heard of, though that’s highly unlikely. Still, we need answers.

Beyond that, though, knowing such things won’t change what happened. Yet it might help us prevent another such shooting. At least, that’s my hope. No one wants to see more of these shootings. Maybe the answers uncovered in the investigation, even if it’s not domestic terrorism, can help us finally put an end to these horrific tragedies once and for all.

Sep 28, 2021 2:30 PM ET