Half Moon Bay Shooter Sent into Rage over Supervisor Demand for $100

02 Feb, 2023 Liz Carey

                               

Half Moon Bay, CA (WorkersCompensation.com) – The suspect in a shooting that left seven farm workers dead last week said he was tired of being bullied by coworkers.  

Chunli Zhao, 66, admitted to investigators that he had slept with a legally purchased Glock-17 for two years because of bullying at the California Terra Gardens mushroom farm in Half Moon Bay, Cal. On Jan. 23, Zhao said he snapped after a supervisor told him he’d have to pay for damages to equipment Zhao said wasn’t his fault.  

Investigators said that about a half hour before the shooting, Zhao complained to a supervising co-worker that another co-worker was to blame for an accident with company equipment. According to Zhao, another employee intentionally ran a bulldozer into the forklift that Zhao was driving. The supervisor insisted that Zhao would have to pay $100 for the damages, and then rode off on a bike.  

Investigators said Zhao told them he followed the supervisor and found him talking with the co-worker Zhao said caused the accident. Zhao said he confronted the supervisor again who continued to insist Zhao would have to pay for the damage. Zhao told investigators he walked away and hid inside a nearby greenhouse. When the co-worker entered the greenhouse, Zhao shot him and then shot the supervisor, killing them both. 

Witnesses told law enforcement Zhao then walked to the co-worker’s trailer and shot and killed the co-worker’s wife. Immediately after, he went to another trailer, shot and killed another co-worker as they slept and then shot that co-worker’s brother wounding him.  

Law enforcement said Zhao then left the mushroom farm and drove to another farm, Concord Farms, about three miles away where he had worked before. At Concord, he allegedly shot the assistant manager - whom he claimed had mistreated him - and another couple he had worked with previously. All three died, officials said.  

Officials said Zhao after the Concord shooting, drove to the Half Moon Bay sheriff’s substation and waited in the parking lot for officers to arrive. Officials later surrounded his vehicle and arrested him. Officers found the gun, ammunition and a goodbye note Zhao had written to his wife and 40-year-old daughter, who lives in China.  

Oscar Villanueva, a managing director at R3 Continuum, said employees who go on violent shooting sprees usually give out signs that something is coming.  

“No one really just snaps,” he said. “That really doesn't happen. What happens is there are signs and warnings all along the way. There are little breadcrumbs that people leave, that show they're having issues and that they have concerns. If you pay attention to those issues and those things that happen along the way, you can see it coming.” 

Villanueva said companies should have plans in place on how to deal with violence in the workplace and what kinds of things managers can do to mitigate dangers.  

According to a report by the U.S. Secret Service on mass casualty events, more than half of all mass casualty events are preceded by a perceived grievance. Preventing those grievances from turning into violent events, Villanueva said, means listening to grievances, investigating them and ensuring that any workplace bullying, harassment or ill-treatment has consequences.  

It may also mean ensuring that employees have access to employee assistance plans or mental health services.  

In the Half Moon Bay shooting, Zhao told investigators that the bullying and working conditions he suffered under may have caused him some mental health issues.  

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said Zhao is expected to be charged with seven counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, as well as numerous sentencing enhancements on top of each charge, including firearm use enhancements, and special enhancements for multiple murders.  

Zhao is being held without bail pending his first court appearance on Feb. 16.  

“We are dealing with great harm to the community,” Wagstaffe said during the hearing. “There is really no reasonable alternative other than him being detained with no bail.”

 

If found guilty, Zhao could face life without the possibility of parole for each charge. However, Wagstaffe said his office may pursue the death penalty. While California Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued a moratorium on executions, prosecutors are still free to pursue the sentence, Wagstaffe’s office said. 

 

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    About The Author

    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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