Authorities in Northern California are working to determine the motive of a suspect who they said killed seven people and injured one in two separate areas of a small coastal town, making it one of at least three communities in the state that mourn the lives lost by mass shootings in three days.
The suspect, Chunli Zhao, 67, was taken into custody Monday after deputies found him in a vehicle in the parking lot of a sheriff’s substation more than two hours after the shooting in Half Moon Bay, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Saint Matthew, Christina Corpus.
“These types of shootings are horrible,” Corpus said of the violence in the community of about 11,000 residents about 30 miles south of San Francisco. “It’s a tragedy we hear about all too often, but today it has come home here in San Mateo County,” he said during a news conference Monday night.
The horror unfolded around 2:22 p.m. local time Monday when deputies learned of the shooting in an unincorporated area of San Mateo County, Corpus added.
One shooting occurred at a mushroom farm and another near a trucking facility about two miles from the farm, according to Dave Pine, chairman of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.
At one scene of the shooting, officers found four victims dead and one wounded, Corpus said. Shortly after, three more victims were found dead at a separate site, he added. Asked to clarify where the first shooting occurred, Corpus told reporters that he is still under investigation.
The injured person was in critical condition at a local hospital Monday night, Corpus said.
During the investigation, Zhao was identified as a suspect and was later found sitting inside his vehicle at the substation, according to a statement from the sheriff’s office.
Zhao was taken into custody without incident around 4:40 p.m. at which time a semi-automatic pistol was found in his vehicle, Corpus said.
Investigators were working with the district attorney to interview Zhao, the sheriff said.
California has seen at least five mass shootings this month alone, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which, like CNN, defines a mass shooting as one in which at least four people are injured or killed, not including the shooter.
The grief gripping the Half Moon Bay community comes against the backdrop of other neighborhoods reeling from gun violence across the US, where overall there have been at least 39 mass shootings so far this year. year, the data on file shows.
One such shooting happened just hours after the Half Moon Bay shooting in Oakland, about 40 miles to the northeast. One person was killed and seven others were injured in a shooting there Monday night, police said.
And another mass shooting devastated Monterey Park in southern California, where a gunman opened fire Saturday night, killing at least 11 people and wounding nine others. The shooting occurred near the site of the Asian-American-majority city’s Lunar New Year festival.
The owners of the Half Moon Bay mushroom farm, where several victims were found, said they have been “shocked” by the killings and have no prior knowledge of the gunman or his motives.
“With no prior knowledge of this gunman or his motives, we are shocked and very eager to learn more from 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.”
Monterey Park Mayor Henry Lo offered his condolences to Half Moon Bay residents, saying his community is now on the “long road of recovery” to heal.
“I know what awaits you in the next few days,” Lo said.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he was at a hospital to meet with victims of the Monterey Park mass shooting when he was “removed to tell him about another shooting.” This time in Half Moon Bay.
“Tragedy Upon Tragedy,” Newsom tweeted.
San Mateo County Supervisor Ray Mueller said the Half Moon Bay community needs to come together to heal and support each other in addressing gun violence.
“There were farm workers affected tonight; There were children at the scene of the incidents. This is a truly heartbreaking tragedy in our community,” Mueller said.
Mueller spoke about the mental health toll the violence has unleashed on the community and urged people to seek help, especially as the city has been trying to recover from the impact of recent deadly floods that swept across large swaths of the state.
“Take advantage of the mental health crisis counseling that is available,” she said, adding that anyone can contact the county’s hotline. “You’re not alone.”