Half Moon Bay killings: Gunman who targeted farm worker colleagues faces seven murder counts

A farmworker was charged on Wednesday (January 25) with seven counts of murder and one count of attempted murder after being accused of killing seven people in back-to-back shootings at two mushroom farms in Northern California.

Chunli Zhao, 66, was set to appear in court for the first time on January 25, but the date has been changed to February 16, according to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe. Calls and emails from AP news agency seeking comment from his two lawyers did not receive a response.

Speaking outside the courtroom, Wagstaffe declined to elaborate on Zhao’s motive for killing his current and former coworkers, stating that he wished to keep the information private to guarantee a fair trial.

It was the biggest mass shooting in San Mateo County history and the third mass shooting in California in eight days, Wagstaffe said. 

Even though Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a moratorium on executions, the accusations contain further claims that might lead to the death sentence or life in prison without the possibility of release. These accusations include the use of a pistol by Zhao, as well as severe physical harm and many fatalities.

Half Moon Bay is about 50 kilometres (40 miles) south of San Francisco. It is well-known among hikers and tourists who come to surf and attend an annual giant pumpkin festival. 

(With inputs from agencies)

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