Chunli Zhao, a 66-year-old Half Moon Bay farmworker accused of killing seven of his co-workers in a case of “workplace violence” was charged with seven counts of murder and one count of attempted murder on Wednesday.
Zhao was set to make his first court appearance Wednesday, but it was postponed until Feb. 16, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said in a press conference Wednesday. His attorneys did not immediately respond to G3 Box News Digitals request for comment.
Wagstaffe shared that prosecutors requested no bail since Zhao is not a U.S. citizen and has “plenty of reason to run.”
At the press conference, Wagstaffe declined to share any additional details on a motive in the killing of Zhao’s coworkers, saying he wanted to keep the details out of the public eye to ensure a fair trial. Sheriff’s officials have said it was workplace violence.
In addition to seven counts of murder, Zhao was charged with one count of attempted murder, firearm use enhancements and a count of special circumstance allegation of multiple murder, Wagstaffe said.
HALF MOON BAY, CALIFORNIA, DEADLY FARM SHOOTINGS: WHO IS SUSPECT CHUNLI ZHAO?
Authorities believe Zhao acted alone Monday when he entered a mushroom farm where he worked in Half Moon Bay, shot and killed four people and seriously wounded a fifth. He then drove to a nearby farm where he worked previously and killed three more people, said Eamonn Allen, a sheriff’s spokesperson.
About two hours after deputies responded to the two separate shooting scenes, authorities said Zhao was located at 4:40 p.m. Monday in his vehicle in the parking lot of the San Mateo Sheriff’s Office where a deputy took him into custody without incident.
The San Mateo County Coroner’s Office has named six of the victims: Zhishen Liu, 73, of San Francisco; Marciano Martinez Jimenez, 50, of Moss Beach, California; Aixiang Zhang, 74, of San Francisco; Qizhong Cheng, 66, of Half Moon Bay; Jingzhi Lu, 64, of Half Moon Bay; and Yetao Bing, 43, whose hometown was unknown. The charging documents identify Jose Romero Perez as the other person killed and Pedro Romero Perez as the eighth victim, who survived the shooting.
All victims are thought to be workers at the nurseries and were of Asian and Hispanic descent, authorities said.
Servando Martinez Jimenez said his brother Marciano Martinez Jimenez, one of the victims, was a delivery person and manager at one of the farms. He never mentioned Zhao or said anything about problems with other workers.
“He was a good person. He was polite and friendly with everyone. He never had any problems with anyone. I don’t understand why all this happened,” Martinez Jimenez said in Spanish.
It would not have been Zhao’s first fit of workplace rage, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. In 2013, Zhao was accused of threatening to split a coworker’s head open with a knife and separately tried to suffocate the man with a pillow, the Chronicle reported, based on court documents.
NORTHERN CALIFORNIA SHOOTING LEAVES AT LEAST SEVEN DEAD, OFFICIALS SAY: SUSPECT IN CUSTODY
The two were roommates and worked at a restaurant, and the man, identified as Jingjiu Wang, filed a temporary restraining order against Zhao that was granted but is no longer in effect.
San Mateo County Board of Supervisors President Dave Pine described Zhao as a “disgruntled worker,” KRON reported.
Zhao is from China and has lived in the United States for at least a dozen years, Wagstaffe said. He had legal paperwork to live in the country at one time and investigators are determining whether it is still valid, Wagstaffe said. They were also looking into his prior contact with law enforcement.
According to The Independent, Zhao worked at the mushroom farm for decades.
The Half Moon Bay bloodshed was the third mass shooting for California in eight days. On Saturday, suspect Huu Can Tran allegedly opened fire at the Lai Lai Ballroom, a dance hall in Monterey Park, killing 11 people and wounding nine others, according to police. It happened ahead of Chinese New Year.
On Jan. 16, a teenage mother, her baby and four others were killed at a home in California’s Central Valley.
“Only in America do we see this kind of carnage, this kind of chaos, this kind of disruption of communities and lives and confidence and sense of safety and belonging,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday following the back-to-back mass shootings.
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The new year has brought six mass killings in the U.S. in fewer than three weeks, accounting for 39 deaths. Three have struck California since Jan. 16, according to a database compiled by The G3 Box News, USA Today and Northeastern University.
G3 Box News’ Danielle Wallace and the G3 Box News contributed to this report.