Chunli Zhao, the 66-year-old alleged gunman suspected of shooting seven people at two locations in Half Moon Bay, California, earlier this week is set to appear in court for the first time on Thursday, as more information emerges about the suspect’s background, although officials have not released details about the shooter’s motive.
Zhao, who appeared to have worked at the coastal mushroom farm where the shooting took place, allegedly targeted specific co-workers, according to San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus, speaking at a press conference on Tuesday.
City officials said they believe he targeted co-workers out of a “grievance,” although the reason behind that grievance has not yet been determined.
Law enforcement officials had seen no prior warning signs, Corpus told CNN, saying, “there was nothing” that had previously led them to believe he was a threat, and that the shooting was an instance where someone “snaps.”
Court documents, however, show that a judge had granted Zhao’s former roommate in San Jose, California, a restraining order from him in 2013 after Zhao was accused of attempting to suffocate him with a pillow and stab him with a kitchen knife, after he quit his job at a restaurant and demanded he be paid, the New York Times reported.
Zhao, who lived at the mushroom farm for the past three years, according to city Vice Mayor Joaquin Jimenez, legally purchased the semiautomatic handgun he allegedly used in the shooting, and acted alone, local officials said.
Four people were found dead and one person injured at the farm on the outskirts of the city, while three more people were found dead at a nearby site two miles away. Police arrested Zhao from outside his vehicle, which was parked at the Half Moon Bay sheriff station. Police also found the semiautomatic handgun inside his car. Zhao was booked on seven counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder, according to the San Mateo County sheriff’s office, although he has not been formally charged. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday afternoon.
The shooting came two days after a 72-year-old suspected gunman killed 10 people at a dance studio before killing himself in Monterey Park, California, while another shooting in Oakland left one dead and seven injured, prompting renewed calls for gun violence prevention measures. On Tuesday, San Mateo County Board of Supervisors President David Pine argued there are “too many guns in this country and there has to be a change.” Shortly after the shooting, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said he learned about the shooting during a meeting at a hospital with the victims of the Monterey Park shooting, tweeting, “tragedy upon tragedy.” In a statement, President Joe Biden called on legislators to “act quickly and deliver” a bill to impose a nationwide assault weapons ban. A group of senators, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) introduced draft legislation on Monday to ban the sale, transfer, production and import of “military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines,” and to raise the minimum age to buy assault weapons from 18 to 21. Recent attempts to reintroduce an assault weapons ban, however, have not been successful, after a previous bill lacked Republican support in the Senate needed to pass last November.
Half Moon Bay suspect lived at mushroom farm where shootings occurred (Los Angeles Times)