Over the weekend, thousands of people flocked to a popular music event in Brooklyn and on the other side of the country, thousands more to a food festival in Northern California.
But even though the festivals were on opposite coasts, the experience of revelers was eerily similar: The family-friendly events soon turned into nightmares.
In New York, one man died and 11 others were injured by gunfire Saturday night, police said.
In Gilroy, California, crowds trampled over each other on Sunday trying to escape a shooter that sneaked into the city’s annual food festival by cutting a hole in a fence. Three people — including a 6-year-old boy — were killed. Eleven others were injured.
Both tragedies caught unsuspecting crowds by surprise as they enjoyed time with family and live entertainment.
‘A peaceful event for decades’
Gunfire rang out from a Brooklyn park’s playground around 11 p.m. Saturday night, authorities said, shortly after the second night of the “Old Timers” festival had just drawn to a close.
A 38-year-old man was killed. The wounded victims ranged from 21 to 55 years old.
Up until that night, the festival had been a peaceful event for decades, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
The Old Timers event in Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood features local artists and musicians.
A few thousand people were attending, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said.
Crystal Howard, a spokesperson for NYC Parks and Recreation, said the Old Timers event started in 1991.
“It’s been a time for family and friends of the Brownsville neighborhood to come together and celebrate years of friendship and community,” Howard said. “We are saddened by this senseless act of violence, and offer our deepest condolences and concern to the family of the deceased and for those injured.”
Authorities said no less than two shooters and two guns were involved in the attack, NYPD Deputy Chief Michael Kemper said. No arrests have been made and the motive remains a mystery.
A day later, in California, there was a similar scene of panic.
The city’s ‘annual family reunion’
Gilroy has proclaimed itself the garlic capital of the world. Its annual Gilroy Garlic Festival — a celebration with thousands of families, friends, live entertainment and food — lasts three days and spreads across more than 50 acres.
The event has helped raise “millions of dollars for local schools, charities and non-profit organizations,” the festival’s website says.
But this year, the festival’s final day was deadly.
A gunman opened fire Sunday evening after sneaking into the festival by crossing a nearby creek and cutting through a fence, Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said.
Three people were killed and 11 others were injured. Officers confronted the gunman within minutes and the suspect was shot and killed.
“We had many, many officers in the park at the time this occurred … which accounts for a very, very quick response time,” Smithee said.
One of the lives lost was 6-year-old Stephen Romero, a city council member said.
“I pray that God will grant his family strength. My most sincere condolences. I will keep your family close in my thoughts and prayers in the coming weeks as you are going through the process of grieving,” Fred M. Tovar said in a statement.
The event usually attracts 100,000 attendees and is peaceful and family-friendly. It’s a time where the Gilroy community of about 58,000 comes together each year.
“For over four decades that festival has been our annual family reunion,” Gilroy Garlic Festival Executive Director Brian Bowe said Sunday. “To have seen this event end this way this day is just one of the most tragic and sad things that I’ve ever had to see.”