Chunli Zhao, 67, was taken into custody on Monday accused of murdering seven farm workers in the Half Moon Bay area. He reportedly used a forklift to travel from one scene to the next, killing four at the first farm and three at the second
A 67-year-old suspect arrested in relation to a mass shooting at two farms near San Francisco reportedly used a forklift to flee the scene of one attack before carrying out another nearby.
The account was offered by an employee at the first farm, a facility run by Concord Farms, and coincides with claims made Tuesday that the currently incarcerated suspect, Chunli Zhao, had worked at the site for roughly six years as a forklift operator.
The source asked not be named due to police’s ongoing investigation, but offered new insight into a shooting that has left residents of Half Moon Bay, a coastal community just outside of San Francisco, at a loss.
The shooting transpired Monday afternoon, and was the third to hit the Golden State in just as many days, after eleven were killed by another senior-aged, Asian gunman at a dance studio near Los Angeles. In another incident earlier Monday, someone else was slain and several others injured during a shooting slightly north in Oakland.
The revelation comes as investigators had aired the belief that the shootings may have been the result of a workplace dispute, with all eight victims ‘intentionally targeted.’ It also comes as the significant other of one of those slain by Zhao – who cops Tuesday said may have been disgruntled – came forward Tuesday to confirm her loved one was among the dead.
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Appearing for an interview hours after seven were gunned down by a 67-year-old farmhand, Alicia Ortega revealed that her partner, farm worker Martin Martinez, died Monday during a mass shooting at two farms just outside of San Francisco
Ortega said she frantically tried to get in touch with her partner the day of the massacre. The shootings took place at two separate locations in Half Moon Bay, with four shot at a facility run by Concord Farms, and three at Mountain Mushroom Farms two miles away
‘I’m still scared and trying to figure out what happened,’ the first witness told CNN Tuesday of how he ran for cover with other farm hands as the suspect opened fire, killing four of his coworkers. He then added: ‘I don’t understand.’
The witness further revealed to the outlet that he had worked with Zhao for about six years at the farm before the tragedy – claim that was supported from an employee who spoke to ABC who said Zhao had worked at the farm for somewhere between ‘five to six years’ as a forklift driver.
Moreover, after carrying the first part of the massacre, the witness said, Zhao fled the scene on a forklift, traveling two miles away to Mountain Mushroom Farms to claim three more lives.
Still struggling to make sense of the tragedy, the survivor said that he had considered Zhao to be ‘friendly’ and ‘a nice guy,’ and had no inkling as to what ‘his problem with these guys’ were, referring to the victims.
He added that he at first tried to hide when the first shots rang out, joined by several frightened coworkers on the farm, where roughly two dozen work in total.
Heartbreakingly, he said he saw one of the victims allegedly shot by Zhao outside of a greenhouse, but after seeing how much he was bleeding, realized ‘it was too late.’
Investigators later found another victim inside the greenhouse, the witness said, adding that both the victims, like the suspect, had been Chinese men.
The source said that after the gunfire ceased, he saw the suspect drive off on a forklift. He asked not to be named due to the ongoing police investigation.
The victims were killed in two separate attacks on separate farms. Four were were shot at a facility run by Concord Farms, and three at Mountain Mushroom Farms two miles away
The massacre was reportedly witnessed by several children who lived on the farms. Cops Tuesday aired suspicions the incident may have been the result of a workplace dispute
Police are seen at the site of one of the two shootings in Half Moon Bay, a coastal city set just outside the Bay Area’s urban center
The account sheds new light on the shrouded incident, which occurred Monday afternoon, with police keeping mum on victims’ names and potential motives.
However, on Tuesday the incident was further fleshed out by various accounts provided by witnesses and family members of missing farm workers, who are waiting for local police to confirm their worst fears.
Appearing for an interview hours after the massacre, on such person, Alicia Ortega, revealed that her partner, farm worker Martin Martinez, died Monday afternoon by the gunman’s hand.
Ortega was seen holding back tears as she offered her heartbreaking account of the day’s events – during which she frantically tried to get in touch with her partner, who worked as a manager at the mushroom farm set just outside the Bay Area’s urban center.
The emotional interview comes as both the farming community and the San Francisco area were both left reeling from the attack – which saw suspect Zhao shoot eight victims in total, with only one surviving.
Even worse, the massacre was reportedly witnessed by several children who lived on the farms, as cops Tuesday aired suspicions the incident may have been the result of a workplace dispute.
Speaking to CBS affiliate KPIX Tuesday, an emotional Ortega recalled her last exchange with her loved one, which came Monday morning when the farm worker rose for work.
‘The morning, when he go to work, is the last time,’ Ortega said of the pair’s final parting words.
Hours later, as friends and family members tried to locate those who had been on the farms targeted by the gunman, her worst fears were realized when a coworker of of her partner told her that he personally witnessed Martinez’s death.
Children were reportedly present at the time, because some of the workers lived on-site with their families.
An eighth person was shot and injured, and airlifted to Stanford Medical Center.
The San Mateo County coroner’s office is expected to identify the other six who lost their lives in the coming days, after notifying next of kin. It is not immediately clear if Ortega has already received that courtesy.
Chunli Zhao, 67, is pictured on Monday afternoon as he is arrested by San Mateo County officials
ABC7 News confirmed that the suspect, who lived in Pescadero, had worked for decades at one of the mushroom farms where the shooting took place, and all victims were co-workers.
Dramatic footage from ABC News shows the moment Zhao was taken into custody, in the parking lot of the Half Moon sheriff’s office, at 4.40pm.
His maroon Lexus SUV had been spotted leaving the scene, and was then seen at the sheriff’s office. A weapon was found in his vehicle: Zhao is believed to have acted alone, and is cooperating with law enforcement.
The killings come less than 48 hours after 72-year-old Huu Can Tran shot and killed 11 people celebrating Lunar New Year in Monterey Park, near Los Angeles.
Sheriff Christina Corpus of San Mateo County said: ‘This kind of shooting is horrific.
‘It’s a tragedy we hear about too often, but today it has hit home to Half Moon Bay.’
Police in the Half Moon Bay area are seen approaching the suspected killer on Monday afternoon
They grab Zhao by the hand, and wrestle him to the ground
Zhao is seen being restrained and searched, before he is handcuffed and put in the police car
Police are seen at the site of one of the two shootings in Half Moon Bay Tuesday
The first call was made to police at 2:22pm on Monday afternoon
Police are pictured at the scene of one of the Half Moon Bay shootings
Zhao is believed to have worked at one of the sites for many years: police are confirming the details of his employment
Corpus added: ‘We’re working with our district attorney’s office to interview the suspect.
‘He’s believed to be a worker. We don’t have the exact connection at the time – we are working to try and gather more information.’
Corpus said they think the weapon found in his SUV was the one used in the shooting, but they are yet to confirm whether he held the weapon legally. She could not confirm whether he had a criminal history.
Corpus said that the children were on the scene because school had finished.
‘For them to witness this is unthinkable,’ she said.
The sheriff’s office confirmed at 5pm that they had the suspect in custody.
‘There is no ongoing threat to the community at this time,’ they said in a tweet.
Half Moon Bay is a small community of 12,000 people in the Bay Area’s Peninsula. The city sits less than 30 miles outside of San Francisco.
Dave Pine, president of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, told a press conference: ‘There are simply too many guns in our country.
Sheriff Christina Corpus is seen on Monday evening addressing a press conference
Supervisor Dave Pine said that the gun violence plaguing the United States ‘has to change’
‘This has to change.
‘This is not an acceptable way for a modern society to operate.’
Pine and his colleagues urged local residents to take advantage of mental health support being offered by the community.
Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, tweeted: ‘At the hospital meeting with victims of a mass shooting when I get pulled away to be briefed about another shooting. This time in Half Moon Bay.
‘Tragedy upon tragedy.’
The San Mateo County coroner’s office is expected to identify the other six who lost their lives in the coming days, after notifying next of kin. It is not immediately clear if Ortega has already received that courtesy. Moment Half Moon Bay mass shooting suspect arrested by cops