The man suspected of killing four people at a California mushroom farm and three others at a nearby site had legal possession of a semi-automatic weapon registered to him, San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus said.
The suspect, whom authorities identified as Chunli Zhao, 66, was not known to local police before the massacre and had shown no warning signs as far as the sheriff’s office knew, Corpus told CNN Tuesday night. morning.
“There was nothing that would have raised or raised us to have any concerns with him at this time, prior to this incident,” the sheriff said.
This was a case, the sheriff continued, in which someone “broke” and “innocent people were killed.”
Officers found four people dead and one person injured at the mushroom farm and moments later found three more people dead at a separate site about two miles away, authorities said.
The sheriff described the attack as an “incident of workplace violence,” saying Zhao targeted specific people and, while he had the opportunity to hurt others, he “chased and chased” certain people.
The sheriff’s office described the suspect as a “coworker or former co-worker” of the victims at each shooting location.
Zhao is expected to appear in court for an arraignment Wednesday afternoon, San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Sean Gallagher said.
There are many unanswered questions about the attack, including what might have motivated the shooting, who were the victims, and why they were targeted.
But here’s what we know about the suspected gunman.
County officials said authorities were unaware of “preceding factors” that would have suggested Zhao would carry out the attack.
But it wasn’t the first time he’d been accused of violence against someone he worked with, court records obtained by CNN show.
Zhao was subject to a temporary restraining order after a former co-worker and roommate accused him of attacking and threatening him in 2013.
Yingjiu Wang, who worked with Zhao at a restaurant and lived with him in a San Jose apartment, wrote in a court statement that Zhao’s violent behavior began after Zhao resigned from that job in March 2013.
Early in the morning two days later, Zhao entered Wang’s room and asked for his salary. When Wang told him to pick him up from the restaurant, Zhao said that he would kill Wang and then “took a pillow and started to cover my face and suffocate me,” Wang wrote.
“Although I couldn’t (breathe), I used all my strength in a few seconds to push him away with my blanket,” Wang wrote. He said he called for help and another roommate knocked on the door, but Zhao had allegedly locked it. The two men ended up fighting on Wang’s bed before Zhao could calm down, according to Wang.
Two days later, he wrote, Zhao threatened him again, saying that “he can use a knife to cut off my head if he can’t go back to work.” Wang wrote that he had no control over Zhao’s employment status at the restaurant.
A judge issued a temporary restraining order against Zhao, preventing him from getting too close to Wang and prohibiting him from owning or buying a weapon, according to court documents. The restraining order expired in July 2013. A lawyer for Zhao in the 2013 complaint did not respond to requests for comment and Wang could not be reached for comment.
The incident was first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.
Zhao lived on the first property, where four victims died, for about seven years, according to California Terra Garden spokesman David Oates.
The site, formerly known as Mountain Mushroom Farm, was acquired by the California Terra Garden company in March 2022, Oates said.
There are several mobile homes and employee trailers on the property, which is where the suspect lived, Oates added.
Zhao was one of 35 employees who worked at the farm, the spokesperson said, adding that in the background checks that all employees must go through, “there was nothing to indicate that something like this was a possibility.”
An employee who did not want to be named told CNN that he had known the suspect for about six years and considered him friendly and a “nice guy.” The two were coworkers at the farm and both had been working Monday, the employee said.
The employee told CNN that he took cover when the shooting began and when the shooting stopped, he saw the suspect drive away from the scene in a forklift.
Zhao, who authorities say acted alone, was arrested about two hours after authorities received the first reports of a shooting.
The deputies were dispatched shortly after 2:20 p.m. local time. At about 4:40 p.m., the suspect was taken into custody after authorities found him in his vehicle in the parking lot of the Sheriff’s Office Half Moon Bay Police Substation, the sheriff’s office said in a statement. press.
A weapon was also found in his car, the statement added.