The 66-year-old man suspected of killing four people at a California mushroom farm and three others in a nearby area on Monday was a farm employee, San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus said Tuesday.
“All the evidence we have points to this being an example of violence in the workplace,” the sheriff said. “The only known connection between the victims and the suspect is that they may be co-workers.”
The killings marked the second California massacre in three days involving Asian American victims and suspects. The San Mateo County victims were either Asian or Hispanic, Corpus said.
The US has already suffered 39 mass shootings this month – more than any beginning of the year on record.
In California, 19 people were killed in three mass shootings in just 44 hours:
• Eleven people were killed after a gunman opened fire at a dance studio in Monterey Park, near Los Angeles;
• Seven people were killed Monday in the Half Moon Bay area near San Francisco;
• One person died and seven others were injured Monday night in Oakland.
While the motives remain a mystery, the Half Moon Bay murders have some similarities to the Monterey Park massacre. That’s where 72-year-old Huu Can Tran killed 20 people – 11 killed – during Lunar New Year weekend celebrations, authorities said.
Both cases are related to the Asian American community. And the shooter or suspect in each was of Asian descent and older than the 33-year-old average age of mass shooting perpetrators, according to the Rockefeller Institute of Government.
In San Mateo County, suspect Chunli Zhao was taken into custody about two hours after the initial call to police while he was parked at a sheriff’s substation with a semi-automatic handgun in his car, the sheriff said.
“We know that some of the victims are Chinese, that the perpetrators are Chinese and that this is an agricultural community — they’re agricultural workers,” Half Moon Bay Mayor Deborah Penrose said Tuesday.
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Officials in San Mateo County found four people dead and one person injured at a mushroom farm. A short time later, three more people were found dead near a trucking facility about two miles away in Half Moon Bay, county officials said.
That same night, more bloodshed ensued – this time in the Bay Area city of Oakland. One person died and seven others were injured in stable condition, police said there.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom was at a hospital meeting of wounded victims of the Monterey Park shooting when he was “pulled away to give information about another shooting — this time in Half Moon Bay,” he said.
“Tragedy of tragedy,” Newsom tweeted.
President Joe Biden on Tuesday prayed for the victims in Half Moon Bay and again called on Congress to “act quickly” and ban assault weapons, he said in a statement, adding: “We know that the The scourge of gun violence across America requires stronger action. ”
The mayor of Monterey Park, still stunned by the carnage in his city, offered his condolences to the mourners in Half Moon Bay.
“I know what’s in store for them in the next few days,” said Mayor Henry Lo, offering his support on their “long road to recovery.”
San Mateo County mushroom farm owners have no knowledge of the gunman or his motives, they said.
“We are shaken and anxious to get more information from the authorities and their investigations,” Concord Farms said in a statement to CNN. “Our hearts go out to the victims, their families and the Chinese American community – from Half Moon Bay to Monterey Park.”
The Half Moon Bay community must unite in healing – and support each other to address gun violence – said San Mateo County Supervisor Ray Mueller.
“Some farm workers were affected tonight; there were children at the scene of the incidents. This is a truly heartbreaking tragedy in our community,” Mueller said.
Mueller spoke to the mental health toll that violence has taken on the community and urged people to seek help, especially as the city tries to recover from the impact of the recent deadly flooding that reached large parts of the state.
“Please take advantage of available mental health crisis counseling,” he said, adding that anyone can contact the county’s hotline. “You’re not alone.”
Half Moon Bay Vice Mayor Joaquin Jimenez also urged residents to seek mental health counseling.
“This is something we see on the news. Never think that it will come and go home,” said Jimenez. “Today, we are the news. Our community has been affected.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story gave the wrong age for Chunli Zhao. He is 66.