A shooter killed at least seven people at a mushroom farm and another location in Half Moon Bay, California, on Monday, local officials said.
The San Mateo County sheriff's office identified the shooter as Chunli Zhao, a 66-year-old man, and local media footage captured the moment he was taken into custody in the parking lot of a sheriff's office station. (Other officials earlier on Monday had identified him as Zhao Chunli.)
The victims — who have not yet been publicly identified — are believed to have been workers on the farm. In a press conference Tuesday, officials said the shooter also worked on the farm, saying it was believed to be a case of "workplace violence."
Christina Corpus, the San Mateo County sheriff, said during a news conference that deputies were dispatched at 2:22 p.m. Monday and found four people dead from gunshot wounds as well as another person with life-threatening injuries. Deputies then discovered three more bodies at a separate scene about a mile away. At least one scene was described by local officials as a mushroom farm, and Corpus told reporters they were both nurseries.
The motive is unknown, Corpus said, but police believed the shooter acted alone. Because the shooting occurred in the afternoon, when school was over for the day, there were children who witnessed the shooting. "For children to witness this is unspeakable," she said.
David Oates, a spokesperson for California Terra Garden, the company that owns the farm where one of the shootings occurred, confirmed to BuzzFeed News that four of the victims as well as a fifth person who was injured and the suspect all worked at the farm.
"We remain shocked and grief-stricken over the senseless loss of four of our friends and long-time employees," Oates said in a statement Tuesday, "and we pray for the team member that remains in critical condition."
Corpus told reporters at another news conference on Tuesday afternoon that the surviving worker was being treated at Stanford Hospital and was in stable condition.
The shooter legally owned his gun, the sheriff told CNN on Tuesday morning, noting that he was not previously known to law enforcement. “He wasn’t a red flag for us, nothing to put him on our radar," she said.
But the shooter did have a history of violent threats against coworkers, according to court records first obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle. In 2013, a man who worked with Zhao at a restaurant reportedly filed a restraining order against him, alleging that Zhao had once attempted to smother him with a pillow and threatened he "would use a kitchen knife to split my head."
Oates told BuzzFeed News that California Terra Garden, which acquired the farm in March 2022, was unaware of any disputes or issues involving Zhao prior to Monday's shooting. He said Zhao did work at the farm, which primarily grows mushrooms, for at least several years prior to the company taking over, but he did not have additional details about his employment history.
"No previous incident report or concerns raised," Oates said in an email.
The mass shooting was one of several in California in just a three-day span. On Saturday, 11 people were killed and nine more were injured at a ballroom dance venue in Monterey Park, a predominantly Asian American suburb of Los Angeles. On Monday, just hours after the tragedy in Half Moon Bay, one person was killed and seven more were injured in a shooting in Oakland.
"We are sickened by today’s tragedy in Half Moon Bay," David Pine, president of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, said in a statement Monday. "We have not even had time to grieve for those lost in the terrible shooting in Monterey Park."
Local and state officials pointed to California's strict gun laws as they spoke about the tragedies, but that clearly more needs to be done to reduce deaths caused by gun violence.
"Gun safety works," Gov. Gavin Newsom said during a news conference in Half Moon Bay Tuesday. "We will not back away from that resolve, but we can't do this alone and with all due respect, we feel like we are."
"[The] federal government needs to do its job," he later added.
Josh Becker, a California state senator, tweeted, "When is enough going to be enough for this country?????"
On Monday, Newsom tweeted that he was at a hospital meeting with victims of the Monterey Park shooting when he got word about the Half Moon Bay mass shooting.
"At the hospital meeting with victims of a mass shooting when I get pulled away to be briefed about another shooting," he said. "This time in Half Moon Bay. Tragedy upon tragedy."
During his remarks on Tuesday, the governor took a moment to call out House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who represents California's Central Valley where many of the state's farmworkers live and work, and other Republicans who have fought back against gun control measures.
"We haven't heard one damn word from him. Not since Monterey park … not one expression of prayers even," Newsom said. "It should surprise nobody."
The American Public Health Association says gun violence in the US is a public health crisis. It is a leading cause of premature death in the country, responsible for more than 38,000 deaths annually. As of Jan. 24, at least 1,217 people have already died from gun violence this year, and another 1,584 have died by suicide, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive. In 2022, more than 20,000 people died from gun violence, with over 24,000 additional gun deaths by suicide.
An earlier version of this article, using information provided by officials, misstated the suspected shooter’s age. Chunli Zhao is 66.