HMB suspect reportedly taunted with offensive nickname before 'execution style' shooting: Sources

Stephanie Sierra Image
Thursday, January 26, 2023
HMB suspect allegedly called offensive nickname before attack: Sources
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Investigators say Chunli Zhao was allegedly taunted with an offensive nickname that may have fueled his anger leading up to the Half Moon Bay shooting

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. (KGO) -- We're getting new details on how the mass shooting that killed seven people at two mushroom farms in Half Moon Bay unfolded -- and the alleged stops the suspect made in between both shootings.

Several sources confirmed to the ABC7 News I-Team, the victims were killed execution style in what's been described as an "intentional, gruesome attack."

RELATED: What we know about Half Moon Bay mass shooting suspect Chunli Zhao

Investigators say the 66-year-old suspect Chunli Zhao was allegedly taunted with an offensive nickname that may have fueled his anger leading up to the attack.

Detectives say Zhao targeted all eight victims intentionally as the fellow Asian and Latino farm workers were reportedly involved in an on-going feud.

VIDEO: What to know about the victims killed in the Half Moon Bay mushroom farms mass shooting

"I never thought this was something that would happen in Half Moon Bay," said District 3 Supervisor Ray Mueller.

Here's what we know about the reported timeline:

Zhao allegedly had an argument with a co-worker on the first mushroom farm off Highway 92 - where other farmworkers lived in trailers, sources close to the investigation told the I-Team.

Zhao was reportedly complaining about a situation where he felt he was treated unfairly, but allegedly felt the co-worker dismissed his concerns. Sources say a short time later, the situation escalated.

RELATED: Half Moon Bay shooting suspect has been charged; here's what each count means

The suspect allegedly found the co-worker he was upset with and shot him and another colleague inside a greenhouse on the farm.

"They were killed with purpose and intent, execution style," said Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-16th District).

Investigators who spoke with witnesses who survived say Zhao went to a trailer on the farm where his co-worker lived and killed his wife. He then allegedly walked to the trailer of another co-worker living on the grounds and killed him execution style in his sleep. Another farmworker was reportedly shot in the trailer.

In the moments that followed, the I-Team learned first responders reportedly witnesses Zhao leave the first mushroom farm right around 2:20 p.m. on Monday. Investigators believe Zhao traveled a few miles down the road to the second shooting location, Concord Farms, which is right off Highway 1 in Half Moon Bay. Sources told the I-Team, witnesses saw Zhao walk past other workers, but allegedly only pulled out his gun to shoot and kill two former co-workers and one of their wives.

EXCLUSIVE: Video shows police takedown of Half Moon Bay shootings suspect

"Right now, our job is to try and figure out all of the factors that went into this and make sure it doesn't happen again," Mueller said.

Investigators say workplace conditions on these farms has raised concerns. Governor Gavin Newsom hinted it's been an on-going issue during Tuesday's press conference.

"By the way, some of you should see where these folks are living, the conditions they're in, living in shipping containers," said Newsom.

Newsom gives briefing from Half Moon Bay after mass shooting

Sources told the I-Team, Zhao was "unhappy with management" on the farm. Law enforcement officials identified the first shooting location as Mountain Mushroom Farm, but documents obtained by the I-Team show the company's license was terminated in 2017 and ownership changed hands to California Terra Garden in March 2022.

The I-Team is in contact with an agency representing the current owner of the farm.

Take a look at more stories by the ABC7 News I-Team.

Get the latest on the deadly Half Moon Bay shootings here.

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