HALF MOON BAY, Calif. (AP) — A farmworker killed seven people in back-to-back shootings in a case of “workplace violence” at two Northern California mushroom farms, officials said Tuesday as the state mourned its third mass killing in just over a week.
Chunli Zhao, 66, was booked on suspicion of seven counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, jail records showed. He was being held without bail and scheduled for a Wednesday court appearance.
Authorities believe Zhao acted alone when he entered a mushroom farm in Half Moon Bay, California, and opened fire, killing four and leaving another seriously wounded, San Mateo County Sheriff’s officials said. He then drove to another nearby farm where he had previously worked, and killed another three people, said Eamonn Allen, a sheriff’s spokesman.
Officials have not yet released the names of the five men and two women who died, nor the one man who was injured. Some were Asian and others were Hispanic, and some were migrant workers.
Servando Martinez Jimenez said his brother Marciano Martinez Jimenez, who was a delivery person and manager at one of the farms, was among those killed. Servando Martinez Jimenez said his brother 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 outside his Half Moon Bay home.
Marciano Martinez Jimenez, 50, had lived in the United States for 28 years after arriving from the Mexican state of Oaxaca. Servando Martinez Jimenez said he is working with the Mexican consulate to get his brother’s body home.
Allen declined to answer questions about whether Zhao had any previous criminal history, saying, “there were no specific indicators that would have led us to believe he was capable of something like this.”
But 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.
The two were roommates and worked at a restaurant at the time, and the man, identified as Jingjiu Wang, filed a temporary restraining order against Zhao that was granted but is no longer in effect. Wang could not be immediately reached, the Chronicle reported.