One day after meeting with victims’ families in the wake of a shooting rampage in Southern California, Gov. Gavin Newsom will travel to the Northern California community of Half Moon Bay following two shootings that left seven people dead.
The suspected shooter is in custody and will be arraigned Wednesday in connection with the attacks at plant nurseries 30 miles south of San Francisco. The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office said four victims were found dead at the Mountain Mushroom Farm, where the suspect worked, and a fifth person was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries. Three victims were found at a second scene — a farm where the suspect used to work — a short time later.
The county coroner’s office is working to identify the victims, some of whom were migrants, and notify their next of kin.
The FBI said on Twitter it is assisting local law enforcement with the investigation.
All evidence points to the attack being an “instance of workplace violence,” Sheriff Christina Corpus said Tuesday.
“Our hearts are broken and we’re working together with the community to heal this tragic incident,” she said.
HALF MOON BAY SHOOTINGS:7 dead in two related incidents in California; suspect arrested
After the shooting, county officials worked to provide counseling for grieving residents, Ray Mueller of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors told USA TODAY. He said the diverse, agricultural community was already reeling from three weeks of storms and flooding when the shooting occurred.
Mueller described the scene at the reunification center Monday as one of “shock and sadness,” but he praised residents for coming together to support the victims’ families.
“Late into the night, we had people coming, bringing blankets, supplies, and food,” he said. “The community is rallying around. The next thing we’re going to be doing is raising money for the lost wages for these families.”
Police will submit the case to the district attorney’s office for review Tuesday and the suspect will be arraigned Wednesday, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said. The charges have not yet been determined.
The Sheriff’s Office first received reports of a shooting just before 2:30 p.m. Monday, authorities said.
Half Moon Bay Vice Mayor Joaquin Jimenez said the victims included Chinese and Latino farmworkers.
Some workers at one facility lived on the premises and children may have witnessed the shooting, Corpus said. She said it wasn’t immediately clear how the two locations were connected.
Corpus said Tuesday the victims included 7 men and 1 woman. She said the coroner’s office is still working to identify the victims and notify their next of kin, a task which presents “unique challenges” because some of the victims are members of the migrant community.
The victim that was hospitalized is in stable condition, Corpus said. The only known connection between the victims and the suspect is that they may have been coworkers, she said.
A suspect, Chunli Zhao, 67, a resident of Half Moon Bay, was taken into custody “without incident” from his car in the parking lot of the Half Moon Bay Police Substation more than two hours after deputies arrived at the first shooting scene, Sheriff Christina Corpus said. A semiautomatic handgun was located in his vehicle, according to Corpus. She said Tuesday the gun was legally purchased and owned.
Officials believe Zhao is a worker at one of the facilities and the victims were workers as well. Some workers at one facility lived on the premises and children may have witnessed the shooting, Corpus said. The connection between the new facilities wasn’t clear.
Corpus said officials hadn’t determined a motive for the shooting, though county board of supervisors President Dave Pine described the suspect as a “disgruntled worker.”
President Joe Biden issued a statement saying he and wife Jill were praying for the victims.
“For the second time in recent days, California communities are mourning the loss of loved ones in a senseless act of gun violence,” the statement said.
Biden said he met with his Homeland Security team and directed his administration to ensure local authorities and the broader Half Moon Bay community have full support of “in the wake of this heinous attack.”
Biden also lobbied for his latest gun control bill, noting that Sen. Barbara Feinstein, D-Calif., was among lawmakers who reintroduced a bill that would include a federal assault weapons ban and legislation that would raise the minimum purchase age for assault weapons to 21.
“Even as we await further details on these shootings, we know the scourge of gun violence across America requires stronger action,” the statement said. “I once again urge both chambers of Congress to act quickly and deliver this Assault Weapons Ban to my desk, and take action to keep American communities, schools, workplaces, and homes safe.
Half Moon Bay is a coastal community of about 12,000 people 30 miles south of San Francisco. The city becomes the site of the second mass shooting in California in two days, sitting almost 400 miles northwest of Monterey Park. Eleven people were killed in a shooting rampage at a dance studio there Saturday night; the suspected shooter was later found dead in a van.
Contributing: Thao Nguyen, USA TODAY; The Associated Press