While police haven't revealed much publicly about Monday's tragic shooting in Half Moon Bay, a narrative is emerging about what transpired at two mushroom farms that ended with seven victims dead. And we now know the names of those victims.
On Wednesday, the San Mateo County coroner released the names of six of the victims, all of whom were workers at two farms. They are Zhishen Liu, 73, of San Francisco; Marciano Martinez Jimenez, 50, of Moss Beach; Qizhong Cheng, 66, of Half Moon Bay; Aixiang Zhang, 74, of San Francisco; Jingzhi Lu, 64, of Half Moon Bay; and Yetao Bing, 43 years, of unknown residence.
Separately we know, via KTVU and a family member, that the seventh and eighth victims are Jose Romero Perez, of Oaxaca, Mexico, who was in his 30s; and Pedro Romero Perez, his brother, who is the sole surviving victim and remains at Stanford Medical Center. (Reuters reported their names as Jose and Pedro Romero.) Jose reportedly leaves behind a wife and four children in Mexico.
Joe Juarez, the brothers' cousin who works in a nearby restaurant, spoke to Reuters, saying, "You look to improve your life and then you end up with this."
More details have also emerged about the timeline of the shooting, and the possible motive of the shooter, 66-year-old Zhao Chunli.
The initial shooting occurred at California Terra Garden on San Mateo Road just after 2 p.m. Monday afternoon, and police have described a calculated, targeted shooting of specific victims. Zhao had worked at California Terra Garden for the past year, and had worked at the same facility when it was owned by a company called Mountain Mushroom Farm, which closed in 2017, per NBC Bay Area. Between 2017 and 2022 it's not clear who the operator of the farm was, but initial reports from locals suggested it had been a cannabis-growing facility.
Recreational vehicles and makeshift residences on the property provided housing for the farmworkers, including Zhao and his wife, as NBC Bay Area reports.
A spokesperson for California Terra Garden, David Oates, tells NBC Bay Area that regarding Zhao, there were "No issues, no indication he was capable of anything like that." But police sources tell NBC Bay Area that there was some sort of ongoing conflict — and Zhao has allegedly said he was "picked on" by coworkers and "disrespected" for years.
One surviving coworker, named Miguel, told NBC Bay Area that there was little communication beyond "hi" and "bye" between him and other Spanish-speaking workers and Zhao, who spoke no Spanish and little English.
The exact nature of the conflict, which may have been long-simmering, is not clear. As San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus tells the LA Times, "There was something that happened where he snapped."
Zhao allegedly first opened fire on two coworkers at the farm, one of whom had reportedly, a half hour earlier, had dismissed concerns Zhai had raised about how he was treated. That coworker was someone Zhao considered his boss.
As two other workers at the farm who witnessed the first shooting, sisters Erlin and Miriam Ortiz, told Bay Area News Group, the first victim was a fellow Chinese farmworker, and Zhao allegedly shouted something at him in Mandarin before killing him. This killing occurred outside one of the greenhouses, and the Ortiz sisters said they watched Zhao as he got onto a forklift, looking sinister and laughing, and began driving the forklift toward the area where farmworkers slept.
According to multiple sources, Zhao then went to the encampment area where he fatally shot Jingzhi Lu, the wife of the first victim, inside a trailer. He then shot the two Romero Perez brothers from Mexico who shared the same trailer, one of whom was reportedly inside sleeping.
Afterward, Zhao allegedly drove two miles to Concord Farms, at 2125 Cabrillo Highway, where he had previously worked years earlier. The farm is unaffiliated with California Terra Garden, but it's not clear if they were possibly sharing some workers.
There, per NBC Bay Area, Zhao shot a husband and wife who worked there, as well as a third worker. The third person shot appears to have been Marciano Martinez Jimenez, and the husband in the couple was identified by Bay Area News Group as Zhishen Liu.
Zhao then drove around for some period of time, and ended up parked at a police substation around 5 p.m., where he was apprehended. According to NBC Bay Area's sources, in addition to the guns recovered in Zhao's vehicle, investigators found a scrawled note for Zhao's wife. In it, he reportedly "matter of fact[ly]" stated he had shot eight people, and told her to take care of their adult son, who is in China.
Zhao had no criminal record, however the Chronicle on Tuesday unearthed an expired restraining order from a decade ago in Santa Clara County. A former coworker who was also Zhao's roommate described a violent encounter in their home and multiple threats that seemed to stem from a workplace grievance. Zhao had allegedly quit his job at a restaurant where they both worked, and then later demanded help getting his job back and demanded money.
Top image: A San Mateo County sheriff deputy walks through a farm where a mass shooting occurred on January 24, 2023 in Half Moon Bay, California. Seven people were killed at two separate farm locations that were only a few miles apart in Half Moon Bay on January 23. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
This post has been updated throughout with new information on the timeline.