HALF MOON BAY, Calif. (KRON) — On Jan. 23 at 2:30 p.m., the quiet seaside community of Half Moon Bay changed forever. San Mateo County deputies were called to California Terra Garden, a mushroom farm off Highway 92 in the quiet coastal town.
Deputies found four people shot to death and another gravely wounded. Minutes later, deputies found three more victims at Concord Farms, just five miles away.
After a two-hour manhunt, authorities located the suspected shooter in the parking lot of the sheriff’s substation. Sixty-six-year-old Chunli Zhao was taken into custody.
Zhao had worked at both of the farms.
Police say he used a legally obtained handgun to target specific people in the deadliest shooting ever recorded in San Mateo County. One month later, the community continues to mourn those lives lost:
- 50-year old Marciano Martinez Jimenez – a supervisor at Concord Farms
- 38 year old Jose Romero Perez – a father of four
- His brother, Pedro, gravely wounded in the shooting
- 43-year old Yetao Bing, who leaves behind a wife and two children
- 73-year old Zhishen Liu and 74 year old Aixiang Zhang – a married couple whose daughter lives in San Francisco
- 66-year-old Qizhong Cheng – and 64-year old Jingzhi Lu of Half Moon Bay
KRON On is streaming live news now
Prosecutors charged Zhao with seven counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. On Feb. 16, he pled not guilty to the charges. As for a motive, the San Mateo District Attorney says Zhao got angry over a $100 repair bill, claiming his boss accused him of damaging equipment.
Over the past month, the living conditions of farmworkers in the area has come into focus. City officials told KRON4 News that California Terra Garden did not have permits for on-site worker housing. Despite that, the shooting suspect lived and worked there for seven years.
Across our state, many farmworkers continue to live in the shadows, surviving on meager wages with limited options for housing. A seven-year-old report outlines overcrowding across Salinas and Pajaro valleys. It describes a critical shortage of over 45,000 units of farmworker housing.
Last week, the county stepped in to help survivors, pledging three quarters of a million dollars to help house farm worker families directly impacted by the shooting. California Terra Garden pledged to build permanent housing for employees by next year.
But according to the city’s mayor, the farm has yet to share details on what that means and has not responded to inspector outreach. As for the people left behind, the future remains unclear.