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Chunli Zhao: The suspect in the Half Moon Bay shooting legally possessed his gun and targeted specific people, authorities said. This is what we know about him



CNN

The man suspected of killing four people at a California mushroom farm and three others at a nearby location was legally in possession of a semiautomatic weapon, San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus said.

The suspect, identified by authorities as Chunli Zhao, 66, was not known to local police before the massacre and had not shown any red flags to the sheriff’s office’s knowledge, Corpus told CNN Tuesday morning.

“There was nothing that would have caused us to have any concerns about him at this time, prior to this incident,” the sheriff said.

Chunli Zhao, 66.

This was a case, the sheriff continued, where someone “snarled” and “innocent people were killed.”

Officers found four dead and one injured at the mushroom farm and moments later found three more dead at another location about two miles away, officials said.

The sheriff described the attack as an “incident of workplace violence”, with Zhao targeting certain people and although he had the chance to hurt others, “he went after and pursued certain individuals”.

The sheriff’s office described the suspect as an “associate or former associate” of the victims at each shooting location.

Zhao is expected to appear in court Wednesday afternoon for an arraignment, San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Sean Gallagher said.

Many questions remain unanswered about the attack, including what might have prompted the shooting, who the victims were and why they were targeted.

But here’s what we know about the suspected shooter.

Provincial officials said authorities were not aware of “preliminary factors” that would have suggested Zhao carried out the attack.

But it wasn’t the first time he’d been accused of violence against someone he worked with, according to court documents obtained by CNN.

Zhao was given a temporary restraining order after a former colleague and roommate accused him of assaulting and threatening him in 2013.

Yingjiu Wang, who worked with Zhao at a restaurant and lived with him in an apartment in San Jose, wrote in a court statement that Zhao’s violent behavior began after Zhao quit that job in March 2013.

Early in the morning two days later, Zhao Wang entered his room and asked for his salary. When Wang told him to pick it up at the restaurant, Zhao said he would kill Wang, and then “he took a pillow and started covering my face and suffocating me,” Wang wrote.

“Although I couldn’t (breathe), within a few seconds I used all my strength to push him away with my blanket,” Wang wrote. He said he called for help and another roommate came to the door, but Zhao allegedly locked it. The two men eventually struggled on Wang’s bed before Zhao calmed down, Wang said.

Two days later, he wrote, Zhao threatened him again, saying, “He can use a knife to cut my head if he can’t get back to work.” Wang wrote that he had no control over Zhao’s work status in the restaurant.

A judge issued a temporary restraining order against Zhao, preventing him from getting too close to Wang and forbidding him from owning or purchasing a gun, the court said. 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.

San Mateo County Sheriff's deputies walk through a ranch where a mass shooting took place on Jan. 23 in Half Moon Bay, California.

According to California Terra Garden spokesman David Oates, Zhao lived in the first property for about seven years, where four victims were killed.

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 trailers for employees on the property, where the suspect lived, Oates added.

Zhao was one of about 35 workers who worked on the farm, the spokesman said, adding that on the background checks that all workers must pass, there was “nothing to indicate that such a thing was even a possibility.”

An employee, who declined to be named, told CNN he had known the suspect for about six years and considered him friendly and a “nice guy.” The two were colleagues on the farm and had both worked Monday, the worker said.

The employee told CNN he took cover when the shooting started and when the gunfire stopped, he saw the suspect drive off on a forklift.

The alleged gunman in the Half Moon Bay, California, mass shooting, Chunli Zhao, is to be apprehended on January 23.

Zhao, who authorities say acted alone, was arrested about two hours after authorities first received reports of a shooting.

Deputies were dispatched a little 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. a press release.

A weapon was also found in his car, the release said.

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