A Shooter Outgunned My Gilroy Garlic Festival Videos On YouTube
“Wasn’t there a shooting at this place? Who else is here because of the shooting?”
I stared at the comment in disbelief. Surely, this was a joke. A shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival?
A Google search showed that an active shooter alert went live at the same time as my video. Looking at the real time analytics, both videos experienced a sharp spike in traffic. No surprise. My two videos with Chef Tom Colicchio in a cooking demo and announcing the winners of the Great Garlic Cook-Off were the newest videos for the Gilroy Garlic Festival.
I pinned this comment to both of my videos:
“There is an active shooter at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, reported at 5:30 PM Pacific today (7/28/2019). The two videos that I posted were from yesterday and have nothing to do with the shooting. Thoughts and prayers for the victims.”
Since the mainstream media was slow to report the shooting, I watched it unfold on Twitter while the views for my videos climbed steadily upward for the next three hours.
The first — and last — time my friend and I went to the Gilroy Garlic Festival was in 2005. We parked in a plowed field next door to the festival at Christmas Hill Park in Gilroy, CA, 30 miles south of Silicon Valley. We spent three hours on a hot Saturday afternoon checking out the booths and watching the cooking demonstrations.
The guest cook was a local CBS broadcaster who started his television career in St. Louis before coming out to the San Francisco Bay Area. His dish was a baked chicken stuffed with 40 cloves of garlic. I like a little bit of garlic with my food, but 40 cloves of garlic were too much. And there’s no such thing as a little bit of garlic at the garlic festival.
Ever since then we talked about going back. For one reason or another, it just never happened.
Fast forward to December 2017, I became serious about posting weekly videos to YouTube after a comic con video I posted and forgot about 15 months earlier had over 3,000 views.
I typically attend three to five comic cons each year in Silicon Valley. Not for the comic books, celebrities or toys, but for the pop culture. As a kid in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I read every issue of Starlog that I could get my hands on to read about the science fiction books, movies and television shows that I grew up on or later discovered as an adult.
Most YouTube channels reported on comic cons as an afterthought (“I went to a comic con for a day!”) or covered the two major comic cons in New York City and San Diego. Except for Steven Alvarez, whom I crossed paths with at several events in recent years, no one else covered the pop culture scene in Silicon Valley.
Comic cons and related pop culture became the first half of my Starlog-esque content strategy. While that was enough to sustain my channel, the second half was Silicon Valley and technology to fill in the gaps between comic cons and pop culture. There’s more to Silicon Valley than start-ups, newly minted billionaires and overpriced real estate.
That worked well for my first year on YouTube.
One significant change was how I wrote my scripts to make it easier to add as closed captions to my videos. As someone with a high-frequency loss in one ear, I prefer closed captions whenever possible while watching videos. According to my channel analytics, closed caption viewers jumped from 6% to 10%, and subscriber count tripled from 47 to 150 at the end of July.
What were some of the topics that I covered so far this year?
- Marvel Cinematic Universe (Captain Marvel, The Avengers: Endgame, and Spider-Man: Far from Home)
- killer robots killing 29 Japanese researchers at a weapons lab
- various Stan Lee and YouTube controversies
- overclocking the AMD Athlon 200GE budget processor
- movie reviews of Aladdin, Anna, Apollo 11, and Late Night
- 40th anniversary of Sigourney Weaver in Alien and first American woman astronaut Anna Fisher
- Area 51 Naruto Run for September 20, 2019
As for live events, my friend and I attended the Silicon Valley Auto Show in March, and the Sunnyvale Arts & Wine Festival in June. With the announcement of Chef Tom Colicchio as the guess judge for the Great Garlic Cook-Off, we made plans to attend the Gilroy Garlic Festival.
We were big fans of Tom Colicchio’s TV show, Top Chef, for the first five out of 16 seasons before the show became too predictable, and we ate $100 steaks at his Craftsteak restaurant in the MGM Hotel during our trip to the Las Vegas Star Trek Con in August 2013.
Watching the shooting unfold on Twitter was both fascinating and horrifying at the same time, as people retweeted short video clips taken at the time of the shooting.
- attendees running away from the opposite end of the festival
- people realizing that the rapid burst of shots in the distance weren’t fireworks
- police clustered around a body (probably shooter), a man’s shot up leg that looked like hamburger, and a woman shot in the upper thigh
- the most ironic clip was a guy asking, “Who would shoot up a garlic festival?”
All these clips reminded me of the scene from Cloverfield where the unseen monster rolled the Statue of Liberty’s head down Broadway like a bowling ball, and New Yorkers whipped out their cellphones to take pictures. (Video cameras in cellphones weren’t too common in 2008, and the movie was a “found video” recorded on a camcorder.) Never mind that there was a monster just around the corner.
If a lot of people are running towards you and/or away from something, letting the herd instinct kick in to start running yourself might be a good idea.
Those were the kind of videos that people were looking for on Google (number one search engine) or YouTube (number two search engine) when they found my videos. The combined view count shot past 600 views in three hours. That number was later re-adjusted by the YouTube algorithm to 300 views after discarding fake views from viewers who clicked away without watching the video. Since my videos has nothing to do with the shooting, a lot of viewers clicked away.
For the first two hours, many tweets were trying to establish what happened, how many people killed and/or injured, and which television news van would make it first to Gilroy. From the third hour onward, people started pushing their politics (banning assault rifles versus building the wall) and racism (everyone else versus white supremacists). I stopped watching Twitter when the mainstream media started updating their initial reports with current information.
Views for my videos dropped off sharply as newer videos about the shooting dominated the search result pages for the Gilroy Garlic Festival. The new videos were the same clips shown on Twitter, mainstream media news reports, and every crackpot offering their conspiracy theory. If I had made a follow-up video to talk about the shooting, it would have disappeared in the noise or sidelined by the YouTube algorithm.
On Saturday, July 27, 2019, my friend and I drove down to Gilroy on the 101. Electronic signs and a line of orange cones directed us to the Masten Avenue exit and park in a plowed field eight miles south of Christmas Hill Park. A large tent provided shade while people waited for a shuttle bus. California Highway Patrol officers at various checkpoints along the shuttle route kept festival and local traffic apart. The plowed field next door to the festival in 2005 became the drop off/pick up zone for the shuttle buses and an expanded garlic festival.
A wall of rent-a-cops in dark armor waited for us at the entrance. As typical for large public events, I fully expected to have my gym bag with video camera gear searched and a metal detector wand waved over my person. That didn’t happen. The rent-a-cop asked me if I had any knives in my bag and waved me through when I said no. That has never happened in the 30 years I’ve attended public events.
We walked all the way to the far end of the park to the cook-off stage. I set up my camcorder and tripod at the top of bleachers facing the stage, not far from the video camera that covered the whole stage for the big screen at the back of the stage. Two other cameramen were on stage to zoom in on the dishes that no one could not see from the bleachers. An overhead screen shaded the stage. Where I sat on the bleachers, my camera and I was in the sun. At 11:30 AM, the temperature was already 92F degrees.
I pressed the record button on my camcorder.
We got there too late to see the beginning for the Great Garlic Cook-Off. The eight amateur chefs were waiting to present their garlic-filled dishes to Chef Colicchio and the committee judges for tasting. The judges sat at a round table at the front of the stage.
While that was going on, the stage emcee asked people in the bleachers where they came from and tossed cloves of garlic at them. While most people were local, some came from all over the United States and one family came from Australia.
Chef Colicchio at 12:15 PM explained the eight dishes and announced the winners for the $1,500 runner up, $3,000 grand prize winner, and the committee choice winner.
During the 20-minute break to clean up the stage, I turned off my camcorder and switched out the battery. Each battery has approximately two hours and ten minutes of recording time. I’ve already recorded an hour on the first battery. If the cooking demo went longer than an hour, I didn’t want the battery to die on me.
Chef Colicchio started his own cooking demo by making sweet garlic. He put a bowl of peeled cloves on aluminum foil inside a cooking pan and poured what appears to be four cups of sugar on top.
“What was that?” asked Chef Colicchio, responding to the audience’s amazement. “Not enough sugar?”
He added a little bit of water and wrapped it up to cook in the oven at 300F degrees for 45 minutes. He put it aside to reveal the already cooked sweet garlic. The rest of the dish was lobster, vegetables and oil in a wok, and the sweet garlic added in to finish it off.
For the rest of his hour, he took questions on two conditions: he couldn’t reveal who the winner of this season’s Top Chef and wouldn’t talk about the dating habits of his co-host, Padma Lakshmi. (For Star Trek: Enterprise fans, Padma appeared in the second season episode, “Precious Cargo”.) His answers covered everything from childhood memories of a large Italian family to owning a restaurant while doing a TV show to how judging works on Top Chef.
After recording videos for two hours, I broke down my camera gear and followed my friend to the porta-potties on a service road that ran parallel to the park. Los Gatos police officers and emergency vehicles were present on the service road.
We walked back to the shuttle entrance. My friend stopped briefly to sample up the combo plate of four different garlic items. I didn’t eat anything since I like only a little bit of garlic. As for the rest of festival, the other booths were no different than the ones we visited in 2005.
We did take one foodie side trip that had nothing to do with garlic in Gilroy. For years we heard about how excellent the milkshakes and slushies were at Sonic Drive-In. Unfortunately, the closest Sonic location to Silicon Valley was down in Gilroy. Since we were in the area, we drove through downtown Gilroy and drove over the 101 to Sonic.
My friend ordered a lemonade slushie and thought it was great. I ordered a strawberry milkshake and thought it was almost great. Tiny pieces of strawberries kept getting caught in the straw. No wonder the roller-bladed crew member offered me a spoon. I would rather have a McDonald’s strawberry milkshake (still my childhood favorite) than suck straw for a Sonic strawberry milkshake.
What do we know about the shooter a week later?
I’m not going to reveal the shooter’s name. Too many shooters want the notoriety for what they done after they are dead or in prison. The mainstream media irresponsibly goes out of its way to publicize the shooter’s name. If it bleeds, it leads. Nothing leads like the identity of a shooter, especially one influenced by white nationalism. Letting the shooter remain nameless could reduce the number of copycat shootings.
The shooter was a 19-year-old white male who grew up in Gilroy, the grandson of a county supervisor (Republican, of course), and lived in a remote area outside of Reno, Nevada. He legally bought his assault rifle in Nevada three weeks before the shooting. Something that couldn’t happen in California with the assault rifles ban and no one under 21 can legally buy a weapon. A gun advocacy group recently sued to overturn the new age restriction on firearm purchases.
The shooter drove up from Nevada, walked up a creek bed, and cut through a wired fence near the children play area. He killed a six-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl and a 20-year-old man, injured a dozen people before being shot by three Los Gatos police officers. He lived long enough to commit suicide by shooting himself.
As for the rent-a-cops at the entrance, they did a sloppy job in searching people for knives and other contraband. For all the criticism about them on Twitter, stopping the shooter wasn’t their job. Especially since the shooter never went through an entrance and the garlic festival was low-risk for a shooting. Their job was to prevent knives and individuals wearing gang colors from entering the festival.
As for this shooting taking place with the California assault rifle ban in place, there several things to consider.
The New York Times had an excellent article on how strong gun law states like California and New York are being undermine by neighboring weak gun law states that allow anyone to illegally import a banned weapon across state lines. Until gun control laws are uniform throughout the United States, easy access by shooters to weapons that enables mass killings in the least amount of time makes shootings inevitable.
A determined killer, however, will always find a way to kill people no matter what the laws are. Japan is a notable example of having tough gun laws that makes an America-style shooting impossible. However, mass killings have taken place in recent years with killers using nerve gas, knives, vehicles and fire. These acts of domestic terrorism are difficult to predict and hard to prevent.
While working on this essay during the weekend following the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting, two more shootings took place 13 hours apart.
The first shooting was yesterday in El Paso, Texas. Another young white male with an assault rifle opened fire inside a crowded Wal-Mart, killing 20 people and injuring 26 people. Unlike most other mass shootings, the shooter surrendered instead dying in a shoot-out with police and/or committing suicide. He now faces capital murder charges.
The second shooting was today in Dayton, Ohio, one week after the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting. Another young white male with an assault rifle opened fire at an outdoor entertainment district, killing nine people (including his sister) and injuring 27 people. Police killed him before he could reload with the extra clips that he carried.
Thoughts and prayers for all Americans, shootings are the new normal.