© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A suspect is arrested by law enforcement personnel after a mass shooting at two locations in the coastal northern California city of Half Moon Bay, California, U.S. January 23, 2023 in a still image from video. ABC Affiliate KGO via REUTERS.
By Alexandra Ulmer
HALF MOON BAY, Calif. (Reuters) – The man accused of shooting and killing seven farm workers near San Francisco in the latest of two back-to-back gun rampages in California that claimed 18 lives overall was due in court on Wednesday for his initial appearance before a judge.
Chunli Zhao, 66, the lone suspect in Monday’s massacre at two mushroom farms in the seaside town of Half Moon Bay, is expected to be formally presented with murder and other charges at the San Mateo County Superior Court in nearby Redwood (NYSE:) City.
Also on Wednesday, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, a California native, planned to travel to the Los Angeles suburb of Monterey Park, where 11 people were fatally shot on Saturday night by a gunman who later took his own life.
Coming in quick succession, the two shooting sprees have left California reeling from one of the bloodiest spates of mass gun violence in decades in a state touted by its Democratic political leadership for some of the strictest firearm laws in the country.
Authorities said Zhao was taken into custody on Monday evening outside a sheriff’s station, where he had driven himself, apparently to surrender, a short time after the attack on farm workers.
The motive for the shooting remained undetermined. But authorities said Zhao had been employed by one of the growers, Mushroom Mountain Farms, and early evidence indicated the bloodshed stemmed from a workplace grievance. The second crime scene, Concord Farms, is about a mile (1.6 km) away.
The suspect was described as a resident of Half Moon Bay, a community of about 12,000 residents known for its foggy weather, fishing, and agriculture. The area was hard hit by a string of deadly “atmospheric river” storms that lashed much of the California coast with pounding surf, extreme winds and torrential rain for several weeks, starting after Christmas.
The shooting, coming on the heels of the storms, cast a renewed spotlight on hardships already faced by the area’s farm workers, many of them immigrants from Latin America and Asia, who live in squalid labor encampments and toil long hours under poor conditions for extremely low pay.
The Half Moon Bay…