Half Moon Bay: Suspected gunman charged with seven murders

A farm-worker has been formally charged with murder for a deadly shooting in California that left seven dead.

The attack, in the coastal city of Half Moon Bay, is believed to be a case of workplace violence.

The suspect, Chunli Zhao, 66, was arrested after driving to a police station.

The incident took place two days after 11 people were shot dead in Monterey Park near Los Angeles.

In a brief court appearance in San Mateo County on Wednesday, the suspect - a Chinese national - was formally charged with seven counts of murder and a single count of attempted murder.

A 10-page criminal complaint against him also alleges "special circumstances" and that he "personally and intentionally" shot to kill.

Under California law, defendants who are convicted of murder with "special circumstances" are theoretically eligible for the death penalty, although the state declared a moratorium on executions in 2019.

He entered no plea and is due in court again on 16 February.

Suspect Chunli Zhao made a brief court appearance on Wednesday
Suspect Chunli Zhao had a Mandarin interpreter in court

Speaking to reporters outside court, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said that officials "have a feeling" on a motive and had found a note in Mr Zhao's car. The prosecutor declined to provide any further details.

Mr Wagstaffe added that the suspect was "co-operative" and gave a "complete statement" when interviewed by investigators.

The back-to-back shootings in Half Moon Bay and Monterey Park came so close together that California's Governor Gavin Newsom was meeting victims of the first attack in a hospital when he was briefed about the second.

The Democrat voiced exasperation over US gun laws, and at a news conference said he had grown weary of having to "say the same things we hear again and again" in the wake of mass shootings.

The Half Moon Bay suspect used a legally purchased semi-automatic handgun, police say, and is believed to have acted alone.

He was a resident of the city - which lies to the south of San Francisco - and employed at the Mountain Mushroom Farm, police have said.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that a former co-worker had previously been given a restraining order against Mr Zhao over violent behaviour.

Six of the seven victims of the shooting have so far been identified and range in age from 43 to 74. Five were Asian and two were Hispanic. Two of the dead - as well as the one surviving victim who was wounded - were Mexican nationals, according to Mexico's consulate in San Francisco.

All of them were agricultural workers, Half Moon Bay Mayor Deborah Penrose told CNN on Tuesday.

One of the victims, 50-year-old Marciano Martinez Jimenez, was an immigrant from the Mexican state of Oaxaca who had lived in the US for 28 years. He worked as a delivery driver and manager at the farm.

Four of the victims were discovered at a mushroom farm, while the other three were later found at a nearby trucking business.

The operator of the farm - California Terra Garden - said the suspect had lived at one of the two locations where people were killed.

Half Moon Bay shooting locations
Half Moon Bay shooting locations