Half Moon Bay shooter targeted co-workers; 1 victim identified

From left, state Sen. Josh Becker, D-Menlo Park; U.S. Rep. Kevin Mullin, D-San Mateo; Assemblyman Marc Berman, D-Menlo Park, and U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, share a moment after arriving in Half Moon Bay. Photo from Becker’s Twitter account.

The Half Moon Bay farm worker who is accused of killing seven people and injuring one person at two farms had legally purchased the handgun he used to commit what the sheriff’s office is saying was a case of “workplace violence.”

Chunli Zhao, 67, of Half Moon Bay, is expected to be arraigned today. Zhao was an employee at Mountain Mushroom Farm and said that was the only connection investigators have found between the suspect and victims so far. Zhao previously worked at the other farm where three people were shot.

The county coroner’s office is still working to determine the identities of the victims. Sheriff Christina Corpus said some victims were migrants, which could create a challenge for identification and notification of family members. Some of the victims were Latino and others were Asian.

“All the evidence we have points to a case of workplace violence,” said Sheriff’s Capt. Eamonn Allen, and declined to elaborate on a possible motive. He said there were children in the area of the shooting, but could not confirm that any were eyewitnesses of the shooting. All of the victims were adults.

Victim named
Servando Martinez Jimenez said his brother Marciano Martinez Jimenez, who was a delivery person and manager at one of the farms, was among those killed. Servando Martinez Jimenez said his brother never mentioned Zhao or said anything about problems with other workers.

“He was a good person. He was polite and friendly with everyone. He never had any problems with anyone. I don’t understand why all this happened,” Martinez Jimenez said in Spanish outside his Half Moon Bay home.

Marciano Martinez Jimenez, 50, had lived in the United States for 28 years after arriving from the Mexican state of Oaxaca. Servando Martinez Jimenez said he is working with the Mexican consulate to get his brother’s body home.

The Mexican Consulate confirmed that two of the people killed in the shooting were Mexican nationals, as is the man who was taken to Stanford Hospital. He was listed as being in “stable” condition yesterday.

Allen declined to answer questions about whether Zhao had any previous criminal history, saying, “there were no specific indicators that would have led us to believe he was capable of something like this.”

But this would not have been Zhao’s first fit of workplace rage, the Chronicle reported. In 2013, Zhao was accused of threatening to split a co-worker’s head open with a knife and separately tried to suffocate the man with a pillow, the Chronicle reported, based on 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 that was granted but is no longer in effect. Wang could not be immediately reached, the Chronicle reported.

Locations identified
The sheriff’s office identified the first shooting location as Mountain Mushroom Farm. But California Terra Garden took over the business last year, company spokesman David Oates said. He did not know how long Zhao worked there, adding that he was one of 35 employees who had stayed on when ownership changed. Oates declined to provide details of the four slain workers.

The site of the second shooting was nearby Concord Farms. Owner Aaron Tung said in a statement that the farm was waiting for more information before it could comment.

Several farmworkers and their families lived in mobile homes at the mushroom farm where the four died and had been relocated to hotels and offered mental health and other support after the shootings, said Half Moon Bay Vice Mayor Joaquin Jimenez. He said the farm employs 20 to 30 Chinese and Latino workers, some of them in the country without legal permission.

“There’s a lot of fear,” said Jimenez, who is also the farmworker program director for the Latino advocacy group ALAS. “So for them to come forward to ask for help is going to be very difficult.”

During a press conference yesterday, Jimenez said the shooting has exposed how farm workers are living and the support they need.

“Many of you come for the pumpkins and ignore the farmworkers. Not today,” Jimenez said.

The county is housing workers who lived at the shooting sites in hotel rooms and is providing income replacements to the workers as their job sites are shut down, said County Supervisor Ray Mueller, who represents the coastside.

Newsom arrives
At an afternoon news conference, Gov. Gavin Newsom said he met with Chinese farmworkers who heard the gunshots. Speaking through a translator, they said it was hard to comprehend what was happening, he said.
“They had never heard a sound like that,” he said.

The shooting was likely to leave some in the community fearful and searching for other work, he said.“The trauma and the damage, the devastation, is felt for generations in some cases, communities being torn asunder no one feeling safe,” Newsom said.

The governor arrived in Half Moon Bay yesterday, after speaking in Monterey Park, where 11 people were killed at a dance studio on Saturday night.

His voice brimming with anger and emotional at times, Newsom said he consulted notes he used at past mass shootings: the slaying of 12 at a Thousand Oaks country and western bar in 2018; the killing of three and wounding of 17 at the 2019 Gilroy Garlic Festival; the slaying of nine workers at a San Jose rail yard in 2021.

“I started writing in ‘Monterey Park,’” Newsom said. “And now I gotta write in, ‘Half Moon Bay.’ What the hell is going on?” — from staff and wire reports

1 Comment

  1. May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in his hands.

    [Portion removed — Please don’t post unconfirmed information that may be in error.]

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