At least seven people are dead after yet another mass shooting—this one in Half Moon Bay, California, a small town just south of San Francisco.
The shooting occurred around 2:20 p.m. at two separate locations, police said. Four victims were found at a mushroom farm off Highway 92, while two more people were killed at another agricultural facility between one and three miles away. A third victim at this second location was rushed to the hospital in critical condition and later died.
A fourth person there was shot and hospitalized with “life-threatening injuries,” police said.
The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office said a suspect, a 67-year-old Half Moon Bay resident named Zhao Chunli, turned himself in to authorities around 4:40 p.m. He was taken into custody without incident in the parking lot of a sheriff substation—the same spot where local reporters and community members were milling around, waiting for a police press conference to begin.
Kati McHugh, a 38-year-old community health advocate, told The Daily Beast in a phone interview that she’d just returned to her car to retrieve her bag when a sheriff’s deputy came towards her. He told her to back away from the vehicle.
As officers approached the car next to hers—a maroon Lexus SUV—McHugh looked over and saw a man sitting quietly in the driver’s seat. She obeyed the deputy’s order, ducking behind a tree and pulling out her phone to record the ensuing arrest.
“It was a super, super clean takedown, super calm for, you know, what we usually see with the police,” McHugh said. “I was impressed with their handling of the situation for how intense it was.”
Local media outlets were able to film the arrest as it occurred, with some reporters squatting just feet away. Footage from KGO-TV shows a man in a white baseball hat being pulled to the ground by officers, who then place him in handcuffs, haul him up, and lead him away.
“There is no ongoing threat to the community at this time,” the sheriff’s office wrote in a tweet minutes later.
At the press conference later on Monday evening, Sheriff Christina Corpus said that a “semi-automatic handgun” had been found in the maroon SUV, Zhao’s vehicle.
Corpus said that Zhao was fully cooperating with authorities. A motive in the shooting had not yet been established, she added, but said that he was “believed to be a worker” at one of the targeted businesses.
Zhao was characterized as a “disgruntled worker” by David Pine, the president of San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, according to the Associated Press.
“This is a devastating tragedy for this community, and the families touched by this unspeakable act of violence,” said Corpus, who was sworn in as county sheriff just a few weeks ago.
She said she hadn’t spoken with any of the victims’ relatives yet, with police waiting for positive identifications to be made by the coroner’s office.
An investigation into the shooting was ongoing Monday night, with the FBI assisting the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, the federal agency said on Twitter. A family reunification center was set up at the IDES Hall in Half Moon Bay, on Main Street.
McHugh said that she never expected a mass shooting to take place in Half Moon Bay, a tiny city of roughly 12,000 people, most of them agricultural workers, artists, and Silicon Valley commuters.
Even the substation’s parking lot was “usually a much sweeter scene on a Saturday morning than it was tonight,” she said, with community members using the site as a farmer’s market on weekends throughout the year.
McHugh’s own car would remain at the parking lot overnight, she said. She was planning on walking over to get it before work on Tuesday morning, to “remember the calm early-morning quiet of Half Moon Bay that we usually have.” After that, she continued, she’d see what she could do “in the coming days to make sure that this kind of thing isn’t what we have to resort to as community members to feel like we’re in control of our lives.”
The country’s latest deadly mass shooting took place less than two days after 11 people were killed at a ballroom dance studio in Monterey Park, around 380 miles away, in the midst of the community’s Lunar New Year celebrations. The suspect in that Saturday night shooting died of a self-inflicted gunshot after a standoff with a SWAT team.
In the 23 days of the new year, there have been 38 mass shootings in the United States, according to data collected by the Gun Violence Archive. Monday’s marked the sixth instance of what the non-profit research group called “mass murders,” which it defined as a shooting with four or more victims, in 2023 so far.
Speaking at the Monday evening press conference, Pine, the president of the board of supervisors, condemned the recent spate of gun violence in particularly fierce terms.
“Gun violence in this country is at completely unacceptable levels,” he said. “It’s really hit home tonight. Our hearts are broken… But in the end, there are simply too many guns in this country. And there has to be a change. this is not an acceptable way for a modern society to live, to conduct its affairs.”
Elected officials at the state and local level alike were quick to join in on grieving the shooting in the hours that followed the attack.
“At the hospital meeting with victims of a mass shooting when I get pulled away to be briefed about another shooting,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom had tweeted on Monday afternoon. “This time in Half Moon Bay. Tragedy upon tragedy.”
“Two hours ago I joined my colleagues on the Capitol steps for a vigil for the victims of the shooting in Monterey Park,” tweeted Marc Berman, a Democrat serving on the California State Assembly. “Before we’ve even had a chance to mourn them, there is yet another mass shooting — this time in Half Moon Bay. In my district.”
President Joe Biden had been briefed on the shooting by Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, his Homeland Security adviser, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.