On Sunday afternoon, a gunman opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, an annual summer festival in the quiet city of Gilroy, California, located about 30 miles south of San Jose. The gunman killed three people, including a six-year-old boy, and injured at least 12 others. Police said the gunman had been shot and killed and that authorities suspected he may have had an accomplice, who was still at large.
Although authorities initially did not reveal the identity of the shooter, local news station KPIX 5 reported he was a 19-year-old man named Santino Legan. Police recovered a backpack filled with ammunition at the scene, and they later searched his home and a second location.
Little is currently known about Legan: Though witnesses claim to have heard him say he was “really angry” while he was opening fire on the crowd, there’s not much indication as to his potential motive for the shooting. While his social media platforms appear to have been deleted as of Monday morning, one post on his alleged Instagram read: “Ayyy garlic festival time. Come get wasted on overpriced shit.” Another post on the now-deleted Instagram included a picture of a Smokey the Bear sign advocating for forest fire prevention, with Legan writing in the caption: “Why overcrowd towns and pave more open space to cater to make room for hordes of mestizos and Silicon Valley white twats?” then plugging the text Might Is Right by Ragnar Redbeard.
A 19th-century text of unknown authorship (its origins have been attributed to everyone from British author Arthur Desmond to Call of the Wild novelist Jack London), Might Is Right has long been considered a key text in the white supremacist movement, says Keegan Hankes, a senior analyst for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s intelligence project. “It’s widely popular and present among ethnocentric white nationalists of all levels, from suit-and-tie white supremacists to neo-Nazis,” Hankes tells Rolling Stone.
The text, which has been banned in multiple countries, essentially advocates for social Darwinism, or the idea that members of certain races or ethnicities are inherently better equipped for survival than others. The author argues that true egalitarianism does not and cannot exist, and that the “white race” is inherently biologically superior to other races.
Although the social Darwinist arguments in the text were not considered all that radical in the 19th century, when the eugenics movement was at its height, it has since been embraced by everyone from noted satanist Anton LaVey to Katja Lane, the wife of white-nationalist-organization The Order founder David Lane, who wrote the preface for its 1999 reprinting. It is also available on the white supremacist website Counter-Currents, and the PDF version has become a staple of white supremacist digital libraries and forums.
“The most important thing [about the text] is this belief in ethnocentricity and biological determinism that is getting pulled from the late 19th century to this current day,” says Hankes. “The ideas are ubiquitous today in white supremacist circles.”
While it’s still unclear whether the shooting was racially motivated, or if Legan had any other concrete ties to extremist circles, this would not be the first time that a mass shooter had been influenced by old-school white supremacist writings. The manifesto of the Christchurch shooter, for instance — while primarily designed to incite division and troll its readers — also contained allusions to Oswald Mosley, a 1930s British fascist known for his Nazi sympathies and xenophobic ideology, and to the writings of David Lane.
“Unfortunately, this is starting to feel all too common,” says Hankes. “There’s a tragedy and we look for a connection to white supremacy, and these are exactly the types of breadcrumbs you might expect.”
This is a developing story and will be updated as new details emerge.