The man suspected of killing four people Monday at a California mushroom farm and three others at a nearby location legally possessed a semiautomatic weapon registered in his name, a sheriff said.
San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus told CNN on Tuesday morning that the suspect, Chunli Zhao, 66, was not known to local law enforcement prior to the massacre and, as far as the sheriff’s office knows, he Didn’t show any red flags.
“At this time before this incident, there was nothing that would cause us any concern about him,” the sheriff said, adding that it was a case of someone “suddenly” and “an innocent person” being killed. ”
Chao, who was arrested Monday, is expected to appear in court Wednesday afternoon, San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Sean Gallagher said.
Officials found four dead and one injured at the mushroom farm on Monday afternoon, and three others were found dead at another location about 2 miles away, officials said.
The attack was an “incident of workplace violence,” Corpus said, adding that Zhao targeted specific people and that while he had the opportunity to hurt others, he “hunted and hunted” certain people.
The suspects are “colleagues or former colleagues” of each of the victims at the shooting scene, the sheriff’s office said.
Many questions about the attack remain unanswered, including what motivated the shooting, who the victims were and why they were targeted.
Here’s what we know about the suspected shooter.
Court records obtained by CNN show that while authorities were unaware of the “preconditions” under which Zhao might carry out the attack, county officials said it was not the first time he has been accused of violence against someone he worked with.
Zhao was served with a temporary restraining order after a former colleague and roommate accused him of assaulting and threatening him in 2013.
Yingjiu Wang, who worked with Zhao at a restaurant and lived with him in a San Jose apartment, wrote in a court statement that Zhao’s violence began after Zhao resigned in March 2013.
Early in the morning two days later, Zhao came to Wang’s room to ask for wages. When Wang asked him to go to the restaurant to pick up something, Zhao said he would kill Wang, then “took a pillow and started covering my face to suffocate me,” Wang wrote.
“Although I couldn’t (breath), within seconds I pushed him away with my blanket with all my might,” Wang wrote. He said he called for help and another roommate came to the door, but Zhao allegedly locked the door. According to Wang, the two ended up scuffling on Wang’s bed before Zhao could calm down.
Two days later, he wrote, Zhao threatened him again, saying, “If he can’t come back to work, he can cut off my head with a knife.” He wrote that Wang had no control over Zhao’s working status at the restaurant.
A judge issued a temporary restraining order against Zhao, preventing him from getting too close to Wang and prohibiting him from owning or buying guns, according to court documents. The restraining order expired in July 2013. Lawyers for Zhao’s 2013 complaint did not respond to a request for comment, and Wang could not be reached for comment.
The San Francisco Chronicle first reported the incident.
Zhao lived for about seven years at the first property, where four of his victims were killed, according to David Oates, a spokesman for Terra Garden, California. The site, formerly known as Mountain Mushroom Farm, was acquired by California Terra Garden in March 2022, Oates said.
Oates added that the suspect’s residence had several mobile homes and trailers for employees.
Zhao was one of about 35 employees who worked on the farm, the spokesman said, adding that standard background checks on all employees showed “nothing to suggest that something like this was possible.”
An employee who spoke on condition of anonymity told CNN he had known the suspect for about six years and thought he was friendly and a “good guy.” The employee said the two were colleagues at the farm and both worked on Monday.
He said the employee took cover when the shooting began on Monday, and when the shooting stopped, he saw the suspect leave the scene in a forklift.
Authorities believe Zhao acted alone, and he was arrested about two hours after authorities received the first reports of the shooting.
Deputies were dispatched at around 2:20 p.m. About 4:40 p.m., authorities took the suspect into custody after finding him in the parking lot of the Sheriff’s Office’s Half Moon Bay Police Precinct, the sheriff’s office said in a news release.
A weapon was also found in his car, the release added.