The San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office has charged the suspected gunman in the death shooting on two mushroom farms in Half Moon Bay, California, with seven cases of murder. Chunli Zhao made his first appearance in court on Wednesday, holding up a piece of paper to shield his face from the cameras.
The 66-year-old, who had two court-appointed lawyers and an interpreter, did not enter into a case. Zhao is being held without bail and his arraignment is scheduled for February 16.
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe told reporters outside the courtroom that Zhao spoke with detectives after his arrest, adding that they “have a sense of the motive at this point based on what he’s told us.”
Wagstaffe also said police found a note in Zhao’s car and that the gun used in the shooting was a Ruger.
If convicted as charged, the suspect could face life without parole or, potentially, the death penalty, Wagstaffe said.
“Making that decision on the death penalty is something that will take place over the next many, many months as we do,” Wagstaffe said.
California Governor Gavin Newsom instituted a moratorium on the death penalty back in March 2019.
San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus said Zhao acted alone Monday when she says he walked into the Mountain Mushroom Farm and shot and killed four people and wounded a fifth.
Police then discovered three more deceased victims at nearby Concord Farms.
Zhao was taken into custody without incident after he was located in his vehicle in the parking lot of a sheriff’s substation and a semi-automatic handgun was found in his vehicle, Corpus said. Investigators believe the suspect was there to turn himself in, but they had not yet confirmed that, Corpus said.
On Wednesday, the San Mateo County coroner identified six of the seven shooting victims as Zhishen Liu, 73, Qizhong Cheng, 66, Marciano Martinez Jimenez, 50, Yetao Bing, 43, Aixiang Zhang, 74, and Jingzhi Lum, 64.
The seventh victim has been “tentatively identified” but their names are being withheld pending “positive identification” and notification of next of kin, the coroner said.
Officials have said some of those killed were migrant workers.
Servando Martinez Jimenez told CBS San Francisco that his brother, Marciano Martinez Jimenez, was a delivery person and manager at one of the farms. He said his brother never mentioned Zhao or anything about problems with other workers.
“He was a good person. He was polite and friendly with everyone. He never had any problems with anyone. I don’t understand why all this happened,” Servando Martinez Jimenez said of his brother in Spanish.
Marciano Martinez Jimenez had lived in the United States for 28 years after arriving from the Mexican state of Oaxaca, said his brother, who added that he is working with the Mexican consulate to bring his brother’s body home.