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Court dismisses City of Gilroy in Garlic Festival mass shooting lawsuit, attorney of shooting victims and families reacts

MONTEREY, Calif. (KION-TV)- UPDATE NOVEMBER 17TH AT 2:17 PM -- Attorneys for victims of the Garlic Festival Shooting and their families are reacting after a Santa Clara County court granted the city's motion for summary judgement, effectively dismissing the city of Gilroy from the lawsuit.

“We respect the court’s decision to grant the City’s motion for summary judgment," Gilroy City Administrator Jimmy Forbis said. "This ruling confirms what the City has felt all along that it held no responsibility for the actions of the shooter. This judgment is an important step for the City at large and our organization to continue to mourn and heal.”

Randall A. Scarlett is an attorney representing the shooting victims and their families.

He explains the attorneys for the city, Gilroy Garlic Festival Association and First Alarm Security argued organizers of festivals or large-scale events in California are not under a duty to take reasonable precautions like securing or monitoring entries or exits into these events unless there had been a prior shooting at that exact event in years prior.

That a "duty" to do so arises if a shooting like that happened before.

"This [ruling] is not feasible and it's not appropriate," said Scarlett. "This sets a horrible standard for security at large scale events in California, especially in this day and age where mass shootings are prevalent. Californians deserve better."

Scarlett also expressed concerns that the ruling not only sets a precedent for the case they're making against the city, but also against the Garlic Festival Association, First Alarm Security and the state as a whole.

Scarlett said they plan to appeal the ruling and are confident the appellate courts will agree with the plaintiffs in the case.

“While we are grateful to put this lawsuit behind us, we remain profoundly empathetic towards all individuals and families impacted by the Gilroy Garlic Festival Incident and this longtime impending case," Gilroy Mayor Marie Blankley said. "We recognize the emotional and personal complexities involved and remain committed to our values of compassion, respect, and genuine concern for all."

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: More than four years after a horrific shooting took the lives of three people and wounded 17 others at the once-popular Gilroy Garlic Festival, the City of Gilroy could potentially be freed of any allegations of negligence.

A group of shooting victims filed a lawsuit against several defendants four months after the tragedy including the City of Gilroy, Gilroy Garlic Festival Association, and the Security Team hired by the festival association.

A Superior Court of California for the County of Santa Clara issued a tentative ruling in the case of Wendy Towner et al. v. Gilroy Garlic Festival Association, Inc. et al. The tentative ruling was to grant the City of Gilroy's motion and effectively dismiss them from the case.

“It is totally inappropriate for the city to put out a press release about a tentative ruling, said Randall Scarlett, the attorney for more than a dozen victims in this case.

The court is expected to make its final ruling within the next few weeks, said the city.

For now, the judge has not made their final ruling, and a trial date for 2024 is still planned with the City of Gilroy listed as a defendant, said Scarlett.

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Ricardo Tovar

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