Half Moon Bay suspect is charged with 7 murder counts as US tallies more mass shootings than days so far in 2023
By Nouran Salahieh and Taylor Romine, CNN
The suspect in the Half Moon Bay, California, mass shooting was charged Wednesday with seven counts of murder and one count of attempted murder in what became the deadliest attack in San Mateo County’s history, the district attorney said.
“This one is in a category that is way beyond anything we’ve ever dealt with,” San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said. “I’m sorry that we have joined the list of counties around this country that have had to deal with this.”
The suspect — identified as 66-year-old Chunli Zhao — is charged with shooting four people at a mushroom farm Monday, where the suspect was an employee, and three more were killed at a nearby farm, authorities said. The suspect was a “coworker or former coworker” of the victims at each shooting site and evidence points to the attack being an instance of workplace violence, San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus said.
As the investigation continues, the Half Moon Bay community’s sense of peace was left “destroyed by senseless death,” California Assembly member Marc Berman said, noting that there are workplace disagreements and relationship disagreements happen all over the world.
“But it’s only in the United States where far too often those disagreements end in mass shootings,” Berman added, promising that the state will do everything possible to further reduce such incidents.
The attack marked the second mass shooting California suffered in just 48 hours. It came as investigators to the south were still piecing together what led up to a mass shooting in Monterey Park, California, where 11 people were killed Saturday night.
Meanwhile, new details emerged in the Yakima, Washington, shooting that killed three people at or near a Circle K convenience store less than a day after the shooting in Half Moon Bay. Court documents revealed Wednesday that the shooting suspect’s mother called police in the hours after the attack, saying she believed her son was involved in the shooting.
Here are some other key developments from the recent shootings:
- The semi-automatic handgun believed to have been used by the Half Moon Bay suspect was legally purchased and owned, authorities have said. The suspect could face a sentence of life without parole or the death penalty, the district attorney said.
- In the Monterey Park shooting investigation, officers on Wednesday recovered a motorcycle registered to the suspect just one block away from the scene of the shooting on Wednesday, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna announced, adding that they believe it may have been an “alternative getaway vehicle.”
- Court documents filed by the Yakima Police Department detail the suspect going into the Circle K and walking around 30 minutes before he returned and opened fire.
“Only in America do we see this kind of carnage, this kind of chaos, this kind of disruption of communities and lives,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday, calling for federal action on gun safety laws.
There have been more mass shootings in the United States than there have been days this year.
Forty mass shootings have been recorded in the US in 2023 — more than at this point in any year on record, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
As communities marked by acts of gun violence continue to grieve the lives lost, investigators on the different cases have been working to establish motives behind the attacks. Here are more details of some of the recent shootings.
Monterey Park, California
Authorities still don’t know what motivated the Saturday night shooting at Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, and investigators have so far not been able to establish a connection between the suspect and any of the victims — including any romantic connection, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna announced Wednesday.
Investigators also do not believe the suspect — identified as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran — has frequented the dance studio in the last five years, Luna said. Three people who knew Tran, including his ex-wife, previously told CNN he had once been a familiar face at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, where he gave informal dance lessons.
“Sometimes it’s frustrating when something like this happens. It’s so tragic because we’re trying to understand it and it doesn’t make sense. It really doesn’t,” the sheriff added, explaining that investigators are working to find a motive.
The gunman fired 42 rounds from a semi-automatic handgun at the dance hall before heading to a second dance studio in nearby Alhambra, where a civilian charged him and wrestled the gun away from him, Luna said.
The firearm — which sources say was then used to identify the suspect — is believed to have been the murder weapon, Luna said. The gun was not registered in the state of California, but was purchased by the suspect in 1999 in Monterey Park, the sheriff added.
On Wednesday, officers recovered a motorcycle registered to the suspect just one block away from the scene of the shooting in Monterey Park, the sheriff announced.
“Homicide investigators determined that the motorcycle was parked there sometime on Saturday, just prior to the mass murder,” Luna said. “Investigators believe it was placed there by the suspect as an alternative getaway vehicle.”
Less than a day after the shooting, Tran was found dead inside a white van about 30 miles away in Torrance. He died following a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the sheriff previously said.
The shooting at the dance studio killed 11 people and wounded nine others.
Those killed were identified by the coroner’s office as: Xiujuan Yu, 57; Hongying Jian, 62; Lilan Li, 63; Mymy Nhan, 65; Muoi Dai Ung, 67; and Diana Man Ling Tom, 70; Wen-Tau Yu, 64; Valentino Marcos Alvero, 68; Ming Wei Ma, 72; Yu-Lun Kao, 72; and Chia Ling Yau, 76.
After the attack, investigators served a search warrant at the home of the suspected gunman and found “hundreds of rounds” of ammunition as well as evidence leading officials to believe he was “manufacturing homemade firearm suppressors,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said.
Half Moon Bay, California
Authorities on Wednesday identified those killed in the Half Moon Bay shooting as: Yetao Bing, 43, Qizhong Cheng, 66, Marciano Martinez Jimenez, 50, Aixiang Zhang, 74, Jingzhi Lu, 64, and Zhishen Liu, 73.
Speaking from Half Moon Bay on Tuesday, Newsom said the victims are dealing with a “myriad of issues” at the same time, describing speaking to people at the hospital who seemed more worried about the cost of healthcare bills or about losing their jobs because they can’t work.
“The stories are devastating,” Newsom said.
Zhao made his first courtroom appearance Wednesday but did not enter a plea. He is scheduled to be arraigned on February 16.
In addition to murder charges, Zhao also faces enhancements for the use of a firearm, great bodily injury, and multiple murder, according to District Attorney Wagstaffe.
Zhao had previously been accused of trying to suffocate and threatening to kill a former coworker at another job nearly a decade ago, according to court records obtained by CNN, which show he was subject to a temporary restraining order after the alleged attack in 2013.
Court documents filed by the Yakima Police Department revealed new details Wednesday on the fatal shootings.
The suspect, identified as 21-year-old Jarid Haddock, visited the Circle K store around 3 a.m. and walked around for about 40 seconds without interacting with anyone or buying anything, according to investigators who reviewed surveillance video, the court documents said.
He returned 30 minutes later, this time with a gun, the document says.
The suspect pointed the gun at a man and woman and fired several shots at them as he moved in their direction, law enforcement said, adding that “based on the video, it appeared Jarid fired all of the rounds from his magazine.”
He then dropped the magazine from the gun and reached into his bag for another and approached the victims again who were on the floor, officials said. Based on the video, the woman was still alive “since her arm was moving” and the gunman stood over the woman and fired “several more shots at her,” the court documents said.
After the suspect left the store, he ran to the gas pumps and approached a Chevrolet Tahoe and “fired approximately six shots into the driver’s side window,” striking the driver, the court documents revealed.
According to the documents, Haddock’s mother called the police after 7 a.m. and said she mbelieved her son was involved in the shooting.
The mother told police that Haddock “had been using methamphetamine for approximately three years,” but it was getting worse over the last month and that he had access to several firearms in a safe at home — including one similar to an “AK-47 that could kill a lot of people,” the court documents said.
Police were eventually pointed to the suspect’s location after a woman who had lent the suspect her phone heard him make “several incriminating statements including ‘I killed those people,'” Murray said during a news conference.
The suspect later died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to police.
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CNN’s Paul Vercammen, Kevin Flower, Veronica Miracle, Stella Chan, Joe Sutton and Andi Babineau contributed to this report.