At least seven people were killed in two related shootings in the beach-side community of Half Moon Bay, an act of violence that comes just two days after 11 people were killed in another mass shooting in Monterey Park.
The suspected shooter, a 67-year-old resident of the community, opened fire in two rural locations about a mile distant, shooting some of the victims in front of children who lived nearby and had recently been released from school.
“This kind of shooting is horrific; it’s a tragedy we hear about too often,” San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus said. “For children to witness this is unspeakable.”
The suspect, believed to be a worker at one of the nearby farms or nurseries, was arrested about two hours after the shootings sitting in a parked car at a sheriff’s substation.
The victims are also believed to be workers at nearby farms, officials said.
“This is a devastating tragedy for this community and the families touched by this unspeakable act of violence,” Corpus said.
Deputies with the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office first found four victims shot to death in the 12700 block of San Mateo Road in an unincorporated area of the county just before 2:30 p.m.
A fifth victim was also found in the area and taken to Stanford Medical Center with life-threatening injuries, the Sheriff’s Office said in a statement to The Times.
Minutes later, in an area about a mile away in the 2100 block of Cabrillo Highway, deputies found three more victims dead of apparent gunshot wounds.
Corpus said the suspect was believed to have driven from one location to the next, shooting the unidentified victims at each site.
The motive for the shootings is still unknown, sheriff’s officials said in a statement.
The suspected shooter, identified as Chunli Zhao, was spotted sitting in his car at the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office substation in Half Moon Bay at about 4:40 p.m., officials said.
Video from ABC 7 showed deputies taking a man to the ground in the parking lot. The man was wearing a white cap, vest and red long-sleeve shirt.
The weapon believed to have been used in the incident, a semiautomatic handgun, was found inside his car.
“I’m very sorry for the families of the victims,” Half Moon Bay Mayor Deborah Penrose told The Times.
Penrose said she had been told that at least some of the victims were workers at nearby farms.
City officials were reaching out to nonprofit organizations to provide help for the affected families, she said.
“Gun violence in this country has hit unacceptable levels,” said San Mateo County Board of Supervisors President David Pine, acknowledging the tragedy that occurred in Monterey Park on Saturday. “Our hearts are broken.”
The shooting that killed 11 at Monterey Park sent shock waves through the community. It was one of the worst mass shooting incidents in Los Angeles County.
Now the Half Moon Bay shootings rank among the deadliest in the San Francisco Bay Area, topped in recent memory only by the 2021 incident when a worker for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority shot and killed nine coworkers at a light rail yard.
“This is something we get to watch on the news, never think it’s going to come home,” said Joaquin Jimenez, vice mayor of Half Moon Bay.
On Twitter, Gov. Gavin Newsom noted he was in the hospital meeting the victims of the Monterey Park shooting when he was notified about the shootings in Half Moon Bay.
“Tragedy upon tragedy,” Newsom tweeted.
President Biden also has been briefed on the situation, and has asked federal law enforcement officials to provide any needed assistance to local law enforcement, according to a statement from White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
“The scourge of gun violence has sadly hit home,” San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine said in a statement. “We have not even had time to grieve for those lost in the terrible shooting in Monterey Park. Gun violence must stop. The State of California has among the strictest gun laws in the United States, which we have strengthened through local action here, but more must be done. The status quo cannot be tolerated.”
Assemblyman Marc Berman noted the scale of violence to hit California: “Two hours ago I joined my colleagues on the Capitol steps for a vigil for the victims of the shooting in Monterey Park,” he said on Twitter. “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.”
The investigation into the Monterey Park mass shooting is focused on the gunman’s previous interactions at two dance studios he targeted and whether jealousy over a relationship was the motive, according to law enforcement sources.
The sources stressed that the investigation was in its early stages. But detectives believe that 72-year-old Huu Can Tran frequented the clubs — the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park and the Lai Lai Ballroom and Studio in Alhambra — and that the shooting might have been sparked by a personal dispute.
Inside Tran’s home in Hemet, investigators found a .308-caliber rifle, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, electronic devices, including cellphones and computers, and items that led officials to suspect he was manufacturing firearm suppressors, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said at a news conference Monday.