HALF MOON BAY, California: A California farm worker was charged on Wednesday (Jan 25) with seven counts of murder for a shooting spree that killed seven people, some of them his co-workers, in the state's second deadly gun rampage in recent days.
The San Mateo County District Attorney charged Chunli Zhao, 66, the lone suspect in Monday's massacre at two mushroom farms in the town of Half Moon Bay near San Francisco, with seven counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, hours before he was expected to appear before a judge at the San Mateo County Superior Court in Redwood City.
Zhao was charged with "special circumstances", accused of "personally and intentionally" shooting to kill. California law declares that defendants convicted of murder with "special circumstances" can be eligible for the death penalty, but Governor Gavin Newsom in 2019 declared a moratorium on executions. The state has not executed a condemned inmate since 2006.
Also on Wednesday, US Vice President Kamala Harris, a California native, planned to travel to the Los Angeles suburb of Monterey Park, site of the first of the recent deadly rampages. She was expected to meet with some families of the 11 people who were fatally shot in a dance hall on Saturday night by a gunman who later took his own life.
Coming in quick succession, the two shooting sprees left California reeling from one of the bloodiest spates of mass gun violence in decades in a state with some of the strictest firearm laws in the country.
Zhao was taken into custody on Monday evening outside a sheriff's station, where police said he had driven shortly after the attack on farm workers.
The precise motive for the shooting remained unclear. Zhao had been employed by one of the growers, Mountain Mushroom Farm, and had resided at the property along with some other employees, according to a spokesperson for California Terra Gardens, which owns the farm. Authorities said early evidence indicated the bloodshed stemmed from a workplace grievance. The second crime scene, Concord Farms, is about a mile away.
Half Moon Bay, a community of about 12,000 residents south of San Francisco, is home to both a luxury resort and a low-income fa...