A mass shooting occurred in the coastal town of Half Moon Bay, killing seven farm workers on Monday.
San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus and District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe released new details Tuesday morning at a news conference held outside a Redwood City courthouse.
“Cases like this, we’ve never had one in this county, of this many deaths. It was a very hectic scene. The sheriff’s office did a magnificent job investigating this case,” Wagstaffe said.
- Victims were Asian and Latin farm workers
According to Sheriff Corpus, the victims were Asian and Latin migrant farm workers, including five men and two women. An eight shooting victim survived and is stable at a hospital. Some of the victims lived and worked on the farms.
Corpus said the coroner’s office is attempting to notify the victim’s families. However, it’s been difficult because family members live in other countries.
Investigators said that children also live on the farms and might have witnessed the shooting.
“Victims were adults and a mixture of Hispanic and Asian descent. Some of these victims were members of our migrant community,” Sheriff Corpus said.
- The suspect, Chunli Zhao, did not self-surrender
Two hours into the search, Zhao drove himself to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s substation parking lot 537 Kelly Avenue in Half Moon Bay.
A deputy spotted Zhao inside his SUV and realized its license plate matched the suspect’s plate. Three deputies pointed their guns at the SUV, ordered him to come out with his hands up, and tackled him to the ground.
Zhao was apprehended and arrested in front of reporters and tv stations.
Even though Zhao drove to the substation, Sheriff’s Captain Eamonn Allen said he would not describe the arrest as a self-surrender.
“He did not actively surrender to us. One of our deputies located the vehicle there and recognized it. He started giving the subject commands. The subject was still seated in the vehicle,” Allen said. “The subject exited the vehicle and was taken into custody.”
- Homicide scenes were farms in Half Moon Bay
The first homicide scene happened at Mountain Mushroom Farm, located at 12761 San Mateo Road, where the suspect worked. According to investigators, Zhao shot five people, killing four.
Shortly after, Zhao drove to Concord Farms at 2125 Cabrillo Highway, where he fatally shot three more victims.
- The shooting was described as ‘workplace violence’
Zhao worked for Mountain Mushroom Farm and lived in Half Moon Bay at the time of the mass shooting. According to Sheriff Corpus, investigators are currently probing the motive of the crime.
“All the evidence we have points to this being the instance of workplace violence. Only known connection between the victims and the suspect is they may have been co-workers,” Sheriff Corpus said.
The victims were shot inside trailers and in an agricultural field.
Crime scene investigators are looking into the trailers looking for forensic evidence.
- The murder weapon was legally-purchased
Sheriff Corpus said that the murder weapon was bought and owned by Zhao. The weapon was a semi-automatic handgun.
He left the gun inside his SUV while parked at the sheriff’s substation.
Deputies tackled Zhao and immediately searched him for weapons. At the time of his arrest, Zhao is unarmed and is cooperating with investigators.
Zhao did not have a lengthy criminal history in San Mateo County. “There were no specific indicators that he was capable of something like this,” Allen said.