HALF MOON BAY, Calif. - The 66-year-old man arrested for killing seven farmworkers and injuring an eighth was an employee at the mushroom farm where he once worked – and then fired off a hail of bullets – in a case where "all evidence points to workplace violence," according to the San Mateo County Sheriff.
At a news conference on Tuesday morning, Sheriff Christina Corpus said that Chunli Zhao had legally purchased the semi-automatic handgun that was found Monday in his SUV, before his takedown arrest in front of the sheriff's substation.
Zhao is not yet formally charged with any crime, according to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe – that will likely occur on Wednesday.
Sheriff's deputies say he acted alone Monday afternoon about 2:30 p.m. when he killed seven co-workers and injured an eighth.
That man is now out of surgery and in stable condition. The victims were a mixture of Hispanic and Asian descent. Five men and two women were killed.
Zhao worked at the Mountain Mushroom Farm – the site of the first round of shootings at 12700 block of San Mateo Road, where four people died and one was injured. The second shooting site was Concord Mushroom Farm in the 2100 block of Cabrillo Highway South.
The coroner is still working to identify the victims. Many were born in other countries and tracking down their relatives will be difficult.
Speaking in Spanish, Alex Garcia Perez, said two of his cousins were shooting victims. One was killed and the other is the man who survived.
But he said trying to track down accurate information has been very difficult.
"We feel horrible, desperate," he said. "We want to know where they are. What hospital he's at."
Federico Nunez also is seeking answers.
He came to the sheriff's substation looking for information on his ex-wife, the mother of their three children.
He said his ex-wife works at the Concord Mushroom Farm – the second shooting site.
She called him about 3 p.m. Monday. Her voice was panicked and she begged him to pick up the kids from school. Then she hung up.
He finally was able to get in touch with her Tuesday afternoon.
Corpus and Capt. Eammon Allen would not elaborate on a motive, other than to offer the general statement that Zhao was upset about something.
They also said he had no known criminal history.
"There were no indicators that he was capable of this though," Allen emphasized. "He was not known to us."
After shooting the victims at two separate crime scenes, sheriff's deputies say Zhao then drove himself to the sheriff substation, and sat in his SUV. A deputy spotted and arrested him. A witness captured the takedown arrest on her cell phone.
Eammon, however, would not describe Zhao as "actively surrendering."
At the time of the mid-day shooting in coastal Half Moon Bay – better known for its annual pumpkin festival – there were about 20 workers and their children, some of whom witnessed the violence. They are all now temporarily staying at a hotel, which county and city leaders have provided.
The government is also providing financial resources and mental health support.
"The trauma is going to be with them," said Half Moon Bay City Manager Matthew Chidester. "We need to make sure everybody impacted and who is feeling the burden of this is able to get the services for the next several weeks.
This is the second mass shooting in California in three days, following a tragedy in Los Angeles County, where 11 people were killed in Monterey Park during a Lunar New Year celebration.
This is also San Mateo County's worst mass shooting in history.
"We've never had one in this county of this many deaths at one scene or one time," Wagstaffe said.
The massacre drew the attention of President Joe Biden, who on Tuesday morning, directed his administration to ensure the city that they have the "full support of the federal government in the wake of this heinous attack."
He said Sen. Dianne Feinstein and others reintroduced a federal Assault Weapons Ban and legislation that would raise the minimum purchase age for assault weapons to 21 – which wouldn't have helped much in either of California's recent mass shootings, as both alleged gunman were in their 60s and 70s.