A farm worker killed seven people at the farm where he worked and at another business in Northern California, bringing the state back to mourning after his third mass murder in eight days.
Officers arrested a suspect in Monday’s shootings, Chunli Zhao, 67, after he was found in his car in the parking lot of a sheriff’s substation, San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus said.
Seven people were found dead and an eighth injured at a farm and at another location several miles away, the Sheriff’s Office said. Authorities suspected that Zhao worked at one of the facilities and that the victims were also workers, Corpus said. Authorities have not determined a motive for the shooting.
San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus confirmed Tuesday that Zhao was an employee of Mountain Mushroom Farm. She says the only known connection between the shooter and his victims is that they “may have been co-workers.”
The sheriff’s office said seven of the victims were male and one female. Some were Asian and some were Hispanic, and some were migrant workers.
Aerial television footage on Monday showed police officers collecting evidence at a farm with dozens of greenhouses, which appeared to be the site where police found four dead. On Tuesday morning, the police continued to blockade the place.
On January 16, a teenage mother and her baby were among six people killed in a shooting at a home in California’s Central Valley. Officials discussing the investigation mentioned a possible gang link in the killings.
California was still reeling Tuesday from an attack at a Lunar New Year celebration in Monterey Park that killed 11 and cast a shadow over a holiday important to many Asian-American communities. Authorities are still looking for a motive for Saturday’s shooting.
“For the second time in recent days, California communities are mourning the loss of loved ones in a senseless act of gun violence,” President Joe Biden said Tuesday morning. “Even as we await more details on these shootings, we know that the scourge of gun violence across America requires stronger action.”
The new year has brought six mass murders in the US in less than three weeks, representing 39 deaths. Three have occurred in California since Jan. 16, according to a database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University. The database tracks all mass murders, defined as four deaths not including the offender, committed in the US since 2006.
The killings occurred on the outskirts of Half Moon Bay, a city about 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of San Francisco.
Half Moon Bay Deputy Mayor Joaquin Jimenez said the victims included Chinese and Latino farmworkers. Some workers lived at one of the facilities and the children may have witnessed the shooting, he said. Corpus said it was not immediately clear how the two locations were connected.
The Sheriff’s Office first received reports of a shooting in the afternoon and found four people dead and a fifth wounded at the first scene. Officers then found three more people shot to death nearby, Capt. Eamonn Allen said in a news release.
About two hours later, a sheriff’s deputy saw Zhao’s car parked outside the sheriff’s substation in a shopping mall and arrested him.
A video of the arrest showed three officers approaching a parked car with their weapons drawn. Zhao got out of the car, and the officers threw him to the ground, handcuffed him, and took him away. A weapon was found in his vehicle, authorities said. The video was captured by Kati McHugh, a Half Moon Bay resident who witnessed the arrest.
The sheriff’s department believes Zhao acted alone.
“We’re still trying to understand exactly what happened and why, but it’s incredibly, incredibly tragic,” said state Sen. Josh Becker, who represents the area and called it “a tight-knit farming community.”
Half Moon Bay is a small seaside town with agricultural roots, home to around 12,000 people. The surrounding San Mateo County is a mix of coastal and hill towns dotted with farms, including flower and tree nurseries, as well as ranches. The county also allows cannabis to be grown in greenhouses and nurseries in some areas.
It is a majority white community. About a third of the population is Latino and about 5% is Asian, according to census data.
“We are sickened by today’s tragedy in Half Moon Bay,” San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine said. “We haven’t even had time to grieve for the people lost in the terrible shooting in Monterey Park. Gun violence must stop.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted that he was “at the hospital meeting with the victims of a mass shooting when I was pulled aside to inform me of another shooting. This time in Half Moon Bay. Tragedy upon tragedy.”