Boy, 6, among three people killed after shooting at Gilroy Garlic Festival in California

A six-year-old boy was one of three people killed by a gunman who opened fire at a food festival in California.

Steven Romero died in hospital after the shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival on Sunday.

At least 15 others were injured after the shooting sent crowds running in panic at the annual event in Gilroy, northern California.

Police officers dressed in SWAT gear stand guard at a first aid centre at Gilroy High School following a shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California (Picture: AP)

The suspected gunman was shot dead by police, who were already at the site and responded within less than a minute.

Steven, who died at St Louise Hospital in Gilroy, celebrated his sixth birthday last month, his father, Alberto, said.

He told NBC Bay Area: “I lost my son. There’s nothing I really can do besides try to be with him until I can put him in his resting spot, wherever that is.

“I don’t know what to say. My son had his whole life to live and he was only six.

“That’s all I can say.”

Mr Romero was at home with his nine-year-old daughter when the shooting took place.

He said his wife was shot in the hand twice and his mother-in-law was also injured.

Gilroy Garlic festival volunteer Denise Buessing, left, embraces fellow volunteer Marsha Struzik at a reunification center in a parking lot at Gavilan College following a deadly shooting at the annual food festival (Picture: AP)

The shooter used a rifle and gained entry to the packed festival by cutting through a fence to avoid the tight security, including metal detectors, police said.

Police are investigating reports that a second suspect may still be at large.

Witnesses reported confusion and panic as shots rang out in the city of 50,000, located about 80 miles south-east of San Francisco.

The attack occurred during the three-day celebration featuring food, cooking competitions and music that attracts more than 100,000 people. Sunday was the final day of this year's event.

The band Tin Man was just starting an encore when shots rang out.

Singer Jack van Breen said he saw a man wearing a green shirt and greyish handkerchief around his neck fire into the food area with what looked like an assault rifle.

Police stay focused on a target after a deadly shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California (Picture: AP)

Mr Van Breen and other members of the band dived under the stage.

He said he heard someone shout: "Why are you doing this?" and the reply: "Because I'm really angry."

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His bandmate Vlad Malinovsky, from Walnut Creek, California, said he heard a lot of shots and then it stopped.

Later, police came and told the band members and others hiding with them to come out with their hands up.

Stanford Medical Centre has two patients being treated from the shooting, spokeswoman Julie Greicius said. She had no details on their injuries or conditions.

Santa Clara Valley Medical Centre received five victims, spokeswoman Joy Alexiou said. She also had no information on their conditions.

Evenny Reyes of Gilroy, 13, told the Mercury News that she spent the day at the festival with her friends and relatives.

"We were just leaving and we saw a guy with a bandanna wrapped around his leg because he got shot. And there were people on the ground, crying," she said.

"There was a little kid hurt on the ground. People were throwing tables and cutting fences to get out."

Police and fire personnel line the streets of Gilroy, California, after three people were shot dead by a gunman at a food festival (Picture: Getty)
A police sniper takes aim at a house in Gilroy, California, following a shooting at a food festival (Picture: Getty)

She said that she did not run at first because the gunshots sounded like fireworks.

"It was like the movies - everyone was crying, people were screaming," she said.

Todd Jones, a sound engineer, told the newspaper that he was at the front of the festival's Vineyard stage when he heard what sounded like a firework.

"But then it started to increase, more rapidly, which sounded more like gunfire, and at that point people realised what was happening," Mr Jones said.

Natalie Martinez, a Gilroy Resident, told the Mercury News that she had gone to get food and separated from her two daughters.

"I ran to find the girls and we basically ran into each other. I thought, We're open prey. It was awful," she said.

Video first posted on social media sites about 5.30pm local time showed people running for safety at the festival.

Agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives responded to the scene of the shooting.

The Gilroy Police Department on its Twitter account issued a statement saying: "The hearts of Gilroy PD and entire community go out to the victims of today's shooting at the Garlic Festival. The scene is still active. If you are looking for a loved one, please go to the reunification centre at Gavilan College at parking lot B."

President Donald Trump tweeted about the shooting, asking people to "be careful and safe”.