Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Employee was the suspect in the shootings at Half Moon Bay farms

Suspect in shootings at Half Moon Bay farms was employee


California's Half Moon Bay: As the state mourned its third mass killing in eight days, an agricultural worker killed seven people in back-to-back shootings at two mushroom farms in Northern California where he worked. The massacre is thought to be a "workplace violence incident," officials said on Tuesday.

According to San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus, officers found Chunli Zhao, 66, in his car in the parking lot of a sheriff's substation on Monday and arrested him.

When Zhao entered a mushroom farm in Half Moon Bay, California, authorities believe he did so alone and opened fire, killing four people and seriously wounding another. According to Eamonn Allen, a spokesperson for the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, he then drove to another nearby farm, where he had previously worked, and killed three additional individuals.

As of Tuesday evening, no additional information about Zhao's motivation or the identities of the people he is alleged to have killed had been made public. According to jail records, he was held without bail and booked on suspicion of seven counts of murder and one count of attempted murder.

Allen stated, "there were no specific indicators that would have led us to believe he was capable of something like this" when asked at a previous news conference whether Zhao had any prior criminal records.

Allen stated, "All of the evidence we have right now points to an incident of workplace violence." Five men and two women were killed. A man, the eighth victim, remained hospitalized. Some were migrant workers, others were Asian, and some were Hispanic.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, it would not have been Zhao's first fit of workplace rage. According to court records, the Chronicle reported that Zhao was accused in 2013 of attempting to suffocate a coworker with a pillow and threatening to cut open the man's head with a knife.

The man, identified as Jingjiu Wang, filed a temporary restraining order against Zhao, which was granted but is no longer in effect.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

Mountain Mushroom Farm was identified as the initial shooting location by the sheriff's office. However, a spokesperson for the company, David Oates, stated that California Terra Garden took over the business last year. He added that Zhao was one of 35 employees who had remained when ownership changed, but he had no idea how long he had worked there. Oates withheld specifics regarding the four slain workers.

Concord Farms was nearby, and the second shooting took place there. In a statement, owner Aaron Tung stated that the farm would not be able to comment until it received additional information. He expressed gratitude to the community for its help.

About 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of San Francisco is the small, laid-back, coastal, and agricultural town of Half Moon Bay. It is a popular spot for hikers and tourists, who come to surf and attend an annual giant pumpkin festival, due to its expansive views of the Pacific Ocean.

According to Half Moon Bay Vice Mayor Joaquin Jimenez, the region experienced heavy rainstorms earlier this month that caused flooding and damage, preventing farmworkers from earning wages for a time. After the shootings, several farmworkers and their families were relocated to hotels and offered mental health and other support. They lived in mobile homes at the mushroom farm where the four people died. According to him, the farm employs 20-30 Chinese and Latino workers, some of whom are in the country without permission from the government.

"A lot of fear exists. We need to recognize that a significant portion of our community of farmworkers is also undocumented, so there is also a concern regarding their legal status. According to Jimenez, who is also the farmworker program director for the Latino advocacy group ALAS, "it is going to be very difficult for them to come forward and ask for help."

In San Mateo County as a whole, which is known for growing mostly flowers, peas, Brussels sprouts, and fava beans, thousands of farmworkers work. According to BJ Burns, the president of the San Mateo County Farm Bureau, there are a few small mushroom growers in the region.

After an attack in Monterey Park, just outside of Los Angeles, that left 11 people dead and disrupted celebrations of Lunar New Year—an important holiday for many Asian American communities—California was still reeling. The shooting on Saturday remains under investigation by authorities.

President Joe Biden stated on Tuesday, "For the second time in recent days, California communities are mourning the loss of loved ones in a senseless act of gun violence." We are aware that stronger action is required to address the problem of gun violence in America, even as we wait for additional information on these shootings.

In less than three weeks, there have been six mass murders in the United States in the new year, resulting in 39 deaths. According to a database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today, and Northeastern University, three have occurred in California since January 16. Since 2006, the database has been keeping track of every mass murder in the United States, which is defined as four victims without the perpetrator.

A sheriff's deputy spotted Zhao's car parked outside a sheriff's substation in a strip mall approximately two hours after receiving initial reports of a shooting and arrested him.

Allen said, "He did not actively surrender to us," ignoring a question about why Zhao had driven there.

Three officers armed and approaching a parked vehicle were captured on video. When Zhao got out, the policemen dragged him to the ground, tied him up, and led him away. According to officials, the vehicle contained a weapon. Kati McHugh, a Half Moon Bay resident who witnessed the arrest, took the video.

State Sen. Josh Becker, who represents the region and described it as "a very close-knit" agricultural community, stated, "We're still trying to understand exactly what happened and why, but it's just incredibly, incredibly tragic."

The majority of residents are white. According to Census data, Latinos make up about a third of the population, and Asians make up about 5%.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said he met with Chinese farmworkers who heard the gunshots at a news conference in the afternoon. They stated that it was difficult to comprehend what was going on while speaking through a translator.

He stated, "They had never heard a sound like that."

He stated that some members of the community might become anxious as a result of the shooting and seek alternative employment.

Newsom stated, "The trauma and damage, the devastation, are felt for generations in some cases, communities being torn asunder, no one feeling safe."

Following the deaths of a teenage mother, her infant, and six others at a home in the Central Valley of California on Jan. 16, the shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay occurred. A possible connection between the killings and a gang was mentioned by officials during the investigation.

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