Half Moon Bay shooting: Gov. Newsom calls for gun reform after 5 men, 2 women killed

ByABC7 News staff KGO logo
Wednesday, January 25, 2023
Investigation into Half Moon Bay mass shooting
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We're learning more about the mass shooting that took the lives of seven farmworkers and injuring one other in Half Moon Bay.

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. (KGO) -- Gov. Gavin Newsom toured Half Moon Bay on Tuesday and addressed the mass shooting that killed five men and two women.

"One common denominator are these damn guns," he said. "No opposition to someone owning gun responsibility. But what the hell is wrong with us? That we allow these weapons of war and large capacity clips out on the streets or sidewalks? Why have we allowed this culture this pattern to continue?"

"Only in America do we see this kind of carnage, this kind of chaos, this kind of destruction of communities," he said.

But Newsom adds the state has lead the national conversation on gun safety.

Newsom calls out gun control opponents after HMB mass shooting

But Governor Newsom called out Republicans on gun control.

"I'm still waiting for Kevin McCarthy, the leader of the House of Representatives....We haven't heard one damn word from him. Not since Monterey Park. Not what happened here. Not one word," he said.

"Where's he been on gun safety reform? Where's the Republican Party been on gun safety reform...one state can't do it alone."

The governor shared he met a patient in the hospital and said he thanked Newsom for being there, but the survivor asked, "but when the hell am I getting out of here?" Newsom said his leg was shattered by gunfire. "I can't afford to spend any more time here. I don't have the money," the survivor told Gov. Newsom.

Newsom pointed out the living conditions for some of these farm workers.

"Some of you should see where these folks are living - the conditions they are in. Living in shipping containers. Folks getting $9 an hour. No healthcare, no support, no services."

MORE: Half Moon Bay shooting suspect had history of making threats to coworkers, court documents reveal

The 66-year-old suspect accused of killing seven people and injured one at two mushroom farms in Half Moon Bay did not have a history of criminal activity or known issues with mental illness, investigators say.

Officials say Chunli Zhao of Half Moon Bay shot five people at the Mountain Mushroom Farm on Monday, all who died except one. Shortly after, he then allegedly shot and killed three additional victims at the Concord Farms.

VIDEO: Half Moon Bay mass shooting suspect targeted victims, had built up anger, investigators say

While there is still much more to uncover on the shooting and what prompted it, investigators have shared several key details about the suspect.

Zhao was a forklift driver at the Mountain Mushroom Farm for five to six years. He also lived at the farm, which is fairly common among the workers.

Investigators say Zhao had a lot of built-up anger towards his co-workers, and that all eight of his victims were intentionally targeted.

It is still unclear if the anger was a known issue between Zhao and his co-workers or if it was an isolated incident that escalated.

After the shootings, Zhao was located in his vehicle in the parking lot of the sheriff's office's Half Moon Bay police substation by a deputy. He was taken into custody without incident and a weapon was located in his vehicle.

Zhao was allegedly open and candid with investigators, speaking with them for hours.

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

District Attorney says that it was these statements which led them to believe that the shooting was not a hate crime. On Tuesday, officials said that they believe the shooting was workplace violence.

"He gave several hour-long statements last night in this building here, and while I won't go into the statement, I will say, it has aleviated for us, any thought that this was a hate crime," Wagstaffe said. "It was not a hate crime, this was simply as sheriff corpus said, a workplace dispute."

Investigators also mentioned concerns over a language barrier. Zhao spoke Mandarin while the other workers mostly spoke Spanish. It's not clear the role this may have played in the shooting.

Zhao worked at one of the mushroom farms and investigators belive it was workplace violence. However, it is still unclear what Zhao's connection to the victims was beyond being co-workers.

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe provided some more insight, saying that according to Zhao's statements, they do not believe it was a hate crime.

"He gave several hour-long statements last night in this building here, and while I won't go into the statement, I will say, it has aleviated for us, any thought that this was a hate crime," Wagstaffe said. "It was not a hate crime, this was simply as sheriff corpus said, a workplace dispute."

Officials Tuesday say that the mass shooting at two mushroom farms in Half Moon Bay that killed seven people, and injured one was likely workplace violence.

Investigators also say that all the victims were targeted, but it is still unknown what specifically led to the shooting.

San Mateo County officials are still working to identify victims, but say that there are seven men and one woman and all are of Asian and Hispanic descent.

Officials say the surviving victim at the hospital is out of surgery and stable, but their condition is not known.

The coroner is notifying family, which has been difficult because some of the victims are migrants.

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

Chunli Zhao, 66, of Half Moon Bay, was arrested in connection to the incidents and taken into custody Monday.

Zhao worked at one of the mushroom farms and investigators belive it was workplace violence. However, it is still unclear what Zhao's connection to the victims was beyond being co-workers.

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe provided some more insight, saying that according to Zhao's statements, they do not believe it was a hate crime.

"He gave several hour-long statements last night in this building here, and while I won't go into the statement, I will say, it has aleviated for us, any thought that this was a hate crime," Wagstaffe said. "It was not a hate crime, this was simply as sheriff corpus said, a workplace dispute."

San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus says that he was using a semi-automatic gun that was legally bought and owned.

Zhao is scheduled to make his first appearance in court tomorrow, but charges have not formally been announced.

The District Attorney says that this is the largest number of victims in a mass shooting that San Mateo county has ever had.

What we've learned about Chunli Zhao

Investigators tell ABC7's Stephanie Sierra that Zhao was a forklift driver at one of the farms for five to six years. He also lived at the farm, which is fairly common among the workers.

He did not have a history of criminal activity or mental illness, but investigators say he had a lot of built-up anger.

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Watch moment police arrest suspect in deadly Half Moon Bay shootings

It is still unclear if the anger was a known issue between Zhao and his co-workers or if it was an isolated incident that escalated.

They also said that the eight victims were intentionally targeted.

Investigators also mentioned concerns over a language barrier. Zhao spoke Mandarin while the other workers mostly spoke Spanish. It's not clear the role this may have played in the shooting.

According to court documents obtained by the ABC7 News I-Team, Zhao once had a restraining order filed against him by a former coworker and roommate, who alleged that Zhao threatened him and even once tried to suffocate him with a pillow when he lost his job.

How the investigation unfolded

The shootings were reported at Mountain Mushroom Farm on San Mateo Road near Highway 1 and Concord Farms off Cabrillo Hwy S. First responders first received a call about an active shooter at around 2:20 p.m.

Authorities responded to the 12700 block of San Mateo Road at the Mountain Mushroom Farm, close to Rice Trucking-Soil Farm off of Hwy. 1. Deputies found four victims deceased with gunshot wounds. A fifth victim, also suffering from gunshot wounds, was transported to Stanford Medical Center with life threatening injuries.

Then shortly after at the Concord Farms on the 2100 block of Cabrillo Highway South - less than 3 miles away from the Mountain Mushroom Farm - three additional victims were located, also deceased with gunshot wounds.

VIDEO: Woman who witnessed HMB shooting suspect's arrest shares details

The sheriff's office says a weapon was located in Zhao's vehicle. He is believed to have acted alone, they added.

Community impacted as officials work to identify victims

Monday night, Half Moon Bay City Manager Matthew Chidester, got a call of support from the Monterey Park city manager. They are both connected through tragedy as the Southern California city also deals with the aftermath of a mass shooting that killed 11 people.

"We're a community that pulls itself together, we're very close-knit and we take care of ourselves and each other and we know that with each other and all of the support that we're getting from around the county and the state, that we'll get through this together," Chidester said.

Chidester says that his priority is giving the victim's families any resources they might need while the community starts the healing process.

"This is a devastating tragedy for this community and the many families touched by this unspeakable act of violence," Sheriff Corpus said.

MORE: There have been more mass shootings in US than days in 2023, database shows

Throughout Monday evening, families of victims arrived at the scene, attempting to piece together what answers they could.

"...not concerned about anything else, just hoping to see him come out, because I really don't want to..." said Carlos Martinez-Maya.

Carlos Martinez-Maya spoke with us at around 5 p.m. Monday, about his uncle who was working at the mushroom farm along Cabrillo Highway.

Then at 7 p.m., he told us workers from the farm confirmed to the family that his uncle was one of the people shot and killed at this scene.

Martinez-Maya is identifying his uncle as a man named Marciano Martinez-Jimenez, who at work was known as "Martin." Understandably, the family has asked for some time while they process all that has happened.

Family ID's worker killed in Half Moon Bay shootings

Locals tell us Mountain Mushroom Farm is known to be a marijuana growing farm.

Sadly, officials say the shootings impacted children too. Some employees of the farm live there, and children were in the area at the time of the shooting.

"This is a horrific event, one that we would never imagine would occur in San Mateo County," said David Pine who is Board of Supervisors President.

"There were farmworkers affected tonight. There were children on the scene at the incident. This is a truly heartbreaking tragedy in our community," said Supervisor Ray Mueller.

As to how many children witnessed this and what they saw:

"It's a big rural location so people are working, it's spread out, there's people that live at the location as well. So it was the afternoon, kids were out of school and for children to witness, this is unspeakable," said Sheriff Christina Corpus.

Authorities give update on Half Moon Bay shooting that killed 7, injured 1

Kate Shea and Lizette Diaz are Half Moon Bay residents and both have been volunteering in the city to help those impacted by the massive flooding from January's torrential rain.

Then came the Monday's mass shooting in their city.

"I walked into my boss' office at 4 p.m. and I said, 'There are four people dead in my town, I have to go,'" says Shea. "The farm workers on the coast have a rough life as it is, and this is just terrible."

Both Diaz and Shea have been assisting families at a community shelter set up at Portuguese Hall in Half Moon Bay.

A lot of ranch workers and their families have been displaced since the farms where they work are now crime scenes. Some were already staying in hotels because their homes were damaged in the storm.

"There is a lot of sadness, there is grief," says Diaz. "It affects me because I have four boys, and I cannot imagine what those kids witness today."

Volunteers help families displaced by HMB shootings

Alejandro Lopez knew one of the victims - a man he called a brother, a friend he has known for 30 years. Lopez brought his family to the shelter to meet the victim's family.

John Williams and his wife dropped off blankets. He says the community still hasn't recovered from the aftermath of the rain and flooding. "What next, you know? Everything is getting thrown at us," he says.

Williams says he does, however, feel more safe knowing that suspect was arrested.

"Totally shocking you hear about this on the news all the time. But when you hear about it, when it comes home to you like, in a small town like this, it really does bring it home. It is just deplorable," says Williams.

"We saw all the sirens going one way and then all the sirens going the other way. Something is going on, but we don't know where it is. And that was terrifying," explains Sarah Prentice.

ABC7's Dustin Dorsey at Stanford Hospital where 3 are injured in Half Moon Bay Shooting

She is another local resident who came to the shelter to help out the families. She is also happy the suspect was arrested. She now wants answers.

"One thing that I am happy about is that (the suspect) is alive, so hopefully we get to get some answers," says Prentice. "I don't know how open this person is to talking and explain the 'why.' I am assuming there is some vendetta."

The volunteers says many of these families could be here for the next few days.

The local group ALAS is aiding with donations.

The FBI of San Francisco is assisting the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office by providing investigative and forensic resources. They say the Sheriff's Office is the lead investigative agency at this time.

ABC7 was told the Holy Family Children's Center went on lockdown around 3:20 p.m.

A family reunification center has been set up at the IDES Hall on 735 Main Street.

Donations are being accepted to support those impacted by Monday's mass shooting. For more information, you can visit here.

The County of San Mateo is working with the City of Half Moon Bay to provide temporary housing, meals and other services to those directly impacted by the shootings. To get help, you can visit here.

The county has also set up a memorial site is at Mac Dutra Plaza in Half Moon Bay. All are welcome to come by.

Leaders react

Aaron Tung, the Concord Farms' principal, released the following statement:

With the little information that is available to us at the moment, our comments are limited. For certain, we thank the outpouring of thoughts and support from the community. We thank law enforcement for their swift response and actions. Concord Farms is a family owned and operated mushroom farm at this location for 37 years. With no past knowledge with this gunman or his motives, we are shook and very eager to gain more information from the authorities and their investigations. Our hearts are with the victims, their families and the Chinese American community, from Half Moon Bay to Monterey Park.

Half Moon Bay Mayor Deborah Penrose also released a statement, saying in part:

"My colleagues and I on the Half Moon Bay City Council are appalled and saddened at this terrible incident, which has completely shocked our community. Our deepest sympathies are with the families and individuals who have been devastated by this horrendous act. We share in their pain and know that our community members are also keeping the victims and their families in their hearts. Now more than ever it's important for the community to come together and be there for one another."

Congresswoman Anna Eshoo released the following statement after the shootings in her congressional district in Half Moon Bay:

"I continue to monitor the unfolding tragedy that has taken place in Half Moon Bay. My gratitude to the San Mateo Sheriff's Office who took the suspect into custody and are working the two scenes of the murders. "Half Moon Bay is a beloved and tight-knit community, and we all stand with them and the families of the victims during this dark hour."

President Biden released a statement on the shooting, happening just one day after the deadly mass shooting at Monterey Park in Southern California, saying in part:

"Jill and I are praying for those killed and injured in the latest tragic shooting in Half Moon Bay, California. For the second time in recent days, California communities are mourning the loss of loved ones in a senseless act of gun violence. Following a briefing from my homeland security team, I have directed my administration to ensure local authorities and the broader Half Moon Bay community have the full support of the federal government in the wake of this heinous attack."

Gov. Gavin Newsom also responded to the incidents, echoing sentiments on the two California shootings.

"At the hospital meeting with victims of a mass shooting when I get pulled away to be briefed about another shooting. This time in Half Moon Bay. Tragedy upon tragedy," Newsom tweeted.

Anyone with information about this incident is encouraged to contact Detective Deschler at 1-800-547-2700.

ABC7 News reporters J.R. Stone and Anser Hassan and Amanda del Castillo contributed to this report.

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

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