In shootings at a Northern California farm, the suspect reportedly confesses and claims he was out of his mind

By Aya Elamroussi, Taylor Romine and Paradise Afshar, CNN

(CNN) — Chunli Zhao, the farm worker accused of conducting two shootings at Northern California farms earlier this week, admitted to killing seven people and wounding another, NBC Bay Area News reported.

Monday’s mass killings stunned the coastal town of Half Moon Bay, becoming the deadliest attack in San Mateo County amid the carnage of other mass shootings in California over the past week.

Zhao spoke in Mandarin with NBC Bay Area’s Janelle Wang at the San Mateo County Jail in Redwood City, Calif., on Thursday, the news outlet reported.

During the 15-minute interview, Zhao said he wasn’t in his right mind and didn’t know “what was happening mentally” when the shooting happened Monday afternoon, Wang said. The suspect expressed remorse and said he regretted the attacks.

Zhao worked at one of the mushroom farms, where he is suspected of fatally shooting four of his colleagues. He was also a former employee at the other nearby farm, where he is accused of killing three former co-workers, said San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus, who used evidence to characterize the shootings as incidents of workplace violence.

The 66-year-old Chinese national said he has been in the US for about 11 years and has a green card, Wang reported. He also said he went through years of bullying and many work-related concerns, Wang said.

Zhao said he was overworked and his concerns about working conditions were not addressed after informing his employer, Wang said. His workplace, California Terra Gardens, previously told CNN in a statement that they have good living conditions and benefits.

Zhao also told the reporter that he believes he has some kind of mental illness and has been struggling with it for some time.

CNN was unable to independently confirm what Zhao said in the interview and has reached out to his attorneys for comment.

San Mateo District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that he could not go into the specifics of the case, but noted that the comments Zhao made to the local news outlet “are consistent.” what he told law enforcement. CNN has reached out to the district attorney for comment.

Zhao is currently being held without bail as he faces seven counts of murder and one attempted murder related to the crimes – one of three mass shootings in three days mourned by the state this week.

Hours after the shooting, Half Moon Bay Deputy Mayor Joaquin Jimenez lamented the incursion of gun violence into his community.

“It’s something we can see on the news. Never think it’s going to come and hit home,” Jimenez said. “Today we are the news.”

California State Representative Marc Berman said disagreements in the workplace and in relationships are everywhere in the world.

“But only in the United States do these disagreements end far too often in mass shootings,” he added.

Three days before the Half Moon Bay shooting, a gunman opened fire on a dance studio in the Los Angeles suburb of Monterey Park, killing 11 people during the Lunar New Year celebrations. The gunman was found dead of a self-inflicted wound a day later in the nearby town of Torrance.

Just hours after the Half Moon Bay shooting, five people were shot dead, including an 18-year-old man who died Monday in Oakland.

In about 44 hours, 19 people were killed in mass shootings in California this week alone as gun violence continues to shake feelings of security in conventional settings across the US.

“I was afraid two days ago that Monterey Park would give way to other headlines. I didn’t know I was going to be up here,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday while speaking from Half Moon Bay. “Now, in some cases, the trauma and damage of the devastation has been felt for generations – communities are torn apart, no one feels safe.”

victim identified

In Half Moon Bay, the victims were identified as Yetao Bing, 43, Qizhong Cheng, 66, Marciano Martinez Jimenez, 50, Aixiang Zhang, 74, Jingzhi Lu, 64, and Zhishen Liu, 73, according to the coroner’s office San Mateo County Office.

The seventh victim has been provisionally identified, but the Bureau is withholding publicly pending positive identification and notification of next of kin.

As the investigation into the shooting continues, details about Zhao have come to light this week.

Although he was unknown to local law enforcement, Zhao was accused of attempting to choke and threatening to kill a former colleague at another workplace nearly a decade ago, according to court filings obtained by CNN.

He was also the subject of a restraining order after a former colleague and roommate accused him of assaulting and threatening him in 2013, the records show.

When police arrested Zhao after the shooting, he appeared to yield to officers and was arrested without incident after driving to a San Mateo County sheriff’s substation in Half Moon Bay to surrender.

Before his arrest, Zhao said he waited a few hours before realizing a police officer was looking at his car and taking notes. Zhao was arrested minutes later after police surrounded his vehicle, Wang said.

The suspect told Wang he bought the gun used in the shooting in 2021 and had no trouble getting it from a store, she said.

According to Wagstaffe, the district attorney, the gun Zhao allegedly used is a Ruger semi-automatic firearm. He was not known to local law enforcement prior to the shooting.

Zhao’s indictment is scheduled for February 16.

The CNN Wire
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