Half Moon Bay mass shooting: Suspect indicted by grand jury, appears in court 1 year after killing 7

ByLena Howland KGO logo
Tuesday, January 23, 2024
Half Moon Bay mass shooting suspect indicted by grand jury
Tuesday marks one year since a farmworker gunned down seven people in back-to-back shootings at mushroom farms in Half Moon Bay.

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. (KGO) -- Tuesday marks one year since a farmworker gunned down seven people in back-to-back shootings at mushroom farms in Half Moon Bay.

It was the largest mass shooting ever in San Mateo County history.

The shooting happened on a Monday afternoon.

The massacre went on to expose poor living conditions for many coastal farmworkers and their families.

The accused gunman, Chunli Zhao, had an argument with a co-worker before the rampage started at a farm off Highway 92.

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Authorities say he opened fire, killing four people and injuring a fifth.

He then drove to the nearby Concord Farms where he previously worked and killed another three people, according to investigators.

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By coincidence, Zhao was back in court the morning of the one year anniversary.

Cameras were not allowed in the courtroom.

Just days before the one year anniversary of the Half Moon Bay shooting, Zhao was indicted by a San Mateo County Criminal Grand Jury for a laundry list of charges, including seven counts of first degree murder and one count of attempted first degree murder.

"You know what, for the victim's families, it's a horrible burden on their shoulders and the longer it gets delayed, they can't move on with their lives and we waited a year, the defense was doing whatever they had to do, this is not crucial of the defense, but we wanted to help move this case along," Stephen Wagstaffe, the San Mateo County District Attorney said.

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Wagstaffe explains, he wanted to go the grand jury route in order to speed up the case, making the decision after recent delays.

"When that happened, we said we're not going to keep waiting and going through all of these continuances, we'll ask the court to allow us to convene a grand jury because then, you don't need a defendant there, you don't need the defense attorneys there, we just do it on our own with a jury and it's done," he said. "That preliminary hearing date of March 18th that had been set, is now an irrelevant date, there is no preliminary hearing in the case."

Completing the grand jury process in just three-and-a-half days.

As for the timing, he says it was a pure coincidence.

"I guess it's symbolic, it's symbolic of the fact, I would not have thought 12 months ago, that we would be on this day and we had not been to the preliminary stage of a preliminary hearing and the fact that we arraigned him today, quite candidly, was simply a coincidence," he said.

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The defense attorney, representing Zhao, briefly told reporters outside of the courtroom he wasn't allowed to speak on this case due to a gag order.

Ultimately, the case was delayed on Tuesday so the defense could have more time to review the indictment, which they told the judge they had just received Tuesday morning.

Zhao is expected to be back in court on February 29 for his arraignment on this indictment.

Wagstaffe says he would like to see this case go to trial either this year or early next year.

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