Mineral County residents awoke July 29 to find that the events which led a 19-year-old to open fire at the famed garlic festival in Gilroy, Calif., had a connection to the small community of Walker Lake.
Mineral County Sheriff’s Office assisted the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the early morning with a search warrant on the residence of 150 Cliff House Road, apartment 2 after it was found that Santino William Legan had occupied the triplex in the months following up to the mass shooting on Sunday, July 28 where three people lost their lives.
The community of Walker Lake sits on the ancient shores of the lake from which it received its name. Mt. Grant, the largest peak of the Wassuk Range looms over the small community which in recent years has begun to see an influx of new faces from as far away as Texas and as close as California – where retires can escape the city life.
On July 29, Mineral County District Attorney Sean Rowe released the statement before noon about the FBI involvement within the county, “…This residence is believed to have been used by the Gilroy, California, shooter during the days prior to the July 28 incident.”
This would not be the first time that Walker Lake would be linked to a shooter. In 1934, Public Enemy Number One, George “Baby Face” Nelson would find solitude on the shores of Walker Lake staying at the Mt. Grant Lodge with his wife, Helen and notorious friends.
Nelson would run the roads of Mineral County with his gang, until a notice in the Hawthorne News made residents aware of his possible appearance in the county.
It seems that the Gilroy shooter, Legan spent more time hiding out in the residence on Cliff House Road. Sheriff Randy Adams told the Independent-News in a short interview on Tuesday afternoon that Legan had had no interaction with his department prior to July 28.
“He (Legan) appears to have moved into Mineral County this Spring and maintained a low-profile,” Sheriff Adams said in a Tuesday release.
Legan would be linked to California but his residency in Nevada allowed him to purchase a WASR-10 from Big Mikes Gun and Ammo in Fallon earlier in July.
A statement from Big Mikes Gun and Ammo, posted to his Facebook page read, “We feel so very sorry for the families, I am heartbroken this could ever happen. Please show only respect here. Good people have been hurt and this goes against everything I believe in. I have always said we will sell to good people and have done everything we can to make sure this happens. We obey the laws, we are a small home business, we sell to people who we think are upstanding citizens to promote safe sport shooting. I pray to God for all the families.”
The Facebook page would continue to say that Legan purchased the gun off his internet page and when he showed up to receive the gun was “acting happy and showed no reason for concern.
“I would never ever sell any firearm to anyone who acted wrong or looks associated with any bad group like white power,” the Facebook statement continued. “Everyone is my brother and sister and I am mourning for the families. Mike” the statement concluded.
Investigators are still sifting through information, including a post on Legan’s Instagram where he posted the caption about “Might is Right,” a book which published in 1896, claims “The Survival of the Fittest”. Wikipedia describes the book’s controversial content such as its viewpoint that weakness should be regarded with hatred and the strong and forceful presence of Social Darwinism in its text.
In Legan’s now deleted Instagram account, he claimed to be of Italian and Iranian decent and wrote: “Ayyy garlic festival time” and “Come get wasted on overpriced” [items]. It is unknown at the present time if Legan had connections to any white supremacy groups.
In the updated release from Rowe dated July 30, he states, “Copies of the Search warrant and its Return filed with the Hawthorne Justice Court have been released to the news media. The Affidavit and Application for the Warrant remain under seal pending further investigation by the FBI.”
Items listed in the receipt for property – United State Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation list such items as LC 52 rifle round; bullet safe-bullet proof vest; gas mask; many empty boxes of ammunition as well as electronic hard drives, cell phones and devices. A sack of ammo casing was also retrieved, containing 12 gauge and 762 and .233 ammunition.
Three festival goes lost their lives due to Legan’s actions. They were: Stephen Romero, age 6 of San Jose who was playing near a bounce house with his mother and grandmother that Sunday afternoon.
His mother, Barbara Aguirre, took Stephen by the hand once she heard gunfire and began to run for safety. She was struck by two bullets: one in the hand, another in her stomach. Her son was shot in her arms.
The family of this small boy believes that he was struck by the same bullet that hit his mother. He was rushed to the hospital in critical condition where he would be pronounced dead.
Alberto Romero, father of Stephen would tell the Los Angeles Times, “He was such a vibrant little boy, full of energy and life.”
Keyla Salazar, age 13 also of San Jose also died at the scene. Details of Salazar have not been released, but a GoFundMe page started by South County Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram manager Bob Mann of Gilroy has been collecting money for the families of the two young victims. He told the Times, “When things like this happen to small towns unexpectedly, we’ve got to make the best of what we can do with our sources and connections,” he said.
Trevor Irby, only 25 of Romulus, N.Y. was the oldest victim. A graduate of Keuka College in his home state, who was biology major. Graduating in 2017.
His college president Amy Storey said in a statement on Monday, July 29, “We are shocked that this latest episode of senseless gun violence resulted in the loss of one of our recent graduates – graduates in whom we place so much hope because of their potential to create a brighter tomorrow.” A GoFundMe page was also created for his memorial. It states, “Trevor was a brother, a son, a grandson, a boyfriend, a best friend and a bright light to all who knew him. Trevor will forever live on in the memory of his loved ones.”
The shooting leaves Mineral County residents asking questions. Do we truly know who lives next door to us and those we see day in and day out? Tenants in the apartment adjoining Legan’s posted the following notice after being bombarded by inquires by out of state reporters, “We do not have a statement. Do not disturb. We have a new baby. Respect our privacy. Tenants #3.”
The Independent-News Facebook page was active with comments after breaking the statement regarding Legan’s connection to the county. Deb Mullen Cobb wrote, “And you anti-gun people never addressed the person who shot the gun. Gun gun gun.. How about mental health is serious and mental health is the problem. Guns don’t shoot by themselves. Mental health is extreme. Do you even understand all the facets of mental health issues. Do you even pay attention to people who are suffering from it. Do you know how to recognize it? And if you do what would you do…ignore it, it’s not my business, it say look at the physco [sp]? Hmmm soothing drove the person to pull the trigger. Something happened and it got by everyone who knew, ignored or couldn’t be bothered to say anything. Address the real issue. BTW I don’t own a gun but I believe in the second amendment and will defend it. We miss the point every time.”
William R. Hartmann, a resident of Walker Lake, wrote: “Even in a small town like Walker Lake, we need to be aware of our neighbors and surroundings. Thankfully there are a growing number of people interested in bettering our town. As a back-up person for our mail carrier, I have gotten to know many more people here. Eyes and ears open!”
Ninety-three year old Hawthorne resident Della Young, wrote, “O my! Prayers for safety!”
Need to Talk
In today’s society, mass shootings have become common. The need to process what has happened can be assisted by health professional’s right here within the county. If you need to speak to someone, you may reach out to Mt. Grant General Hospital at 775-945-2461 or State of Nevada Rural Clinics at 775-945-3387. If you witness what you believe to be something out of the ordinary, contact the sheriff’s office at 775-945-2434. If you wish to remain anonymous, you can send an anonymous tip, text the keyword MCTIP and your tip to 847411.
Adams concluded, “Our prayers and sympathies go out to the victims, their families and the communities impacted by the senseless violence of this individual. We stand ready to assist law enforcement in their efforts to investigate this matter.”