Half Moon Bay farm shooting suspect was employee

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. — A farm worker killed seven people in consecutive shootings at two mushroom farms that had employed him in Northern California and the massacre is believed to be an “incident of workplace violence,” authorities said Tuesday while The state mourned its third mass murder in eight days.

Officers arrested Chunli Zhao, 66, Monday after finding him in his car in the parking lot of a sheriff’s substation, San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus said.

Authorities believe Zhao acted alone when he entered the Mountain Mushroom Farm in Half Moon Bay, California, where he worked, and opened fire, killing four people and critically wounding another. He then drove to another nearby farm where he had previously worked and killed three other people, said Eamonn Allen, a spokesman for the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Allen declined to answer questions about whether Zhao had a criminal record, saying “there were no specific indicators that would have led us to believe that he was capable of something like this.”

“All the evidence we have right now points to an incident of workplace violence,” Allen said. The dead were five men and two women. The eighth gunshot victim, a man, remained in the hospital. Some were Asian and some were Hispanic, and some were migrant workers.

But it would not have been Zhao’s first workplace rage, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday. In 2013, Zhao was charged with threatening to split a co-worker’s head in with a knife and separately trying to suffocate the man with a pillow, the Chronicle reported, according to court documents.

The two were roommates and worked at a restaurant at the time, and the man, identified as Jingjiu Wang, filed a temporary restraining order against Zhao, which was granted and is no longer in effect. Wang could not immediately be reached.

The owner of the Mountain Mushroom Farm, where Zhao allegedly killed four people and injured a fifth, could not immediately be reached.

After the first incident, Zhao allegedly killed three others at nearby Concord Farms. Owner Aaron Tung said in a statement that the facility was waiting for more information before it could comment. He said the farm was a family operation for 37 years and thanked the community for their support.

Half Moon Bay is a sleepy little seaside town with agricultural roots about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of San Francisco. Its sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean make it a popular spot for hikers and tourists, who flock to the beaches to surf and attend the annual giant pumpkin festival.

Earlier this month, the area was hit by severe storms that caused flooding and damage, temporarily preventing farmworkers from earning money, Half Moon Bay Deputy Mayor Joaquín Jiménez said.