7 people killed in related shootings south of San Francisco

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Seven people were killed in two related shootings Monday at agricultural facilities in a California coastal community south of San Francisco, marking the state’s third mass killing in eight days, including Saturday’s attack at a dance hall that killed 11 during Lunar New Year celebrations.

Officers arrested a suspect in Monday’s shootings, 67-year-old Chunli Zhao, after they found him in his car in the parking lot of a sheriff’s substation, San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus said.

Four people were found dead and a fifth injured from gunshot wounds at a farm, and officers found three other people killed at another location several miles away, the Sheriff’s Office said. The killings occurred on the outskirts of Half Moon Bay, a city about 48 kilometres south of San Francisco. Corpus said the two locations were nurseries, and it wasn’t immediately clear how they were connected.

The new year has brought a shocking string of mass killings in the United States — six in less than three weeks, accounting for 39 deaths. Three have occurred in California since Jan. 16, according to a database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University. The database tracks every mass killing — defined as four dead not including the offender — committed in the U.S. since 2006.
Officials believe Zhao is a worker at one of the facilities and that the victims were workers as well, Corpus said. Some workers at one facility lived on the premises and children may have witnessed the shooting, she said.

Corpus said officials hadn’t determined a motive for the shooting.

Half Moon Bay Vice-Mayor Joaquin Jimenez said the victims included Chinese and Latino farmworkers.

The Sheriff’s Office first received reports of a shooting just before 2:30 p.m. PT and found four people dead from gunshot wounds and a fifth person injured at the first scene. Shortly thereafter, officers found three more people dead from gunshot wounds at a second location nearby, Capt. Eamonn Allen said in a news release.

About two hours after first responding, a sheriff’s deputy noticed the suspect, Zhao, in his car parked outside a sheriff’s substation in a strip mall and arrested him, recognizing the car by its licence plate.

A video of the arrest showed three officers approaching a parked car with drawn weapons. Zhao got out of the car, and the officers pulled him to the ground, put him in handcuffs, and led him away. A weapon was found in his vehicle, officials said. The video was captured by Kati McHugh, a Half Moon Bay resident who witnessed the arrest.