REDWOOD CITY, Calif., Jan 25 (Reuters) – A 66-year-old immigrant farm employee was formally charged with premeditated homicide on Wednesday within the deadly taking pictures of seven co-workers close to San Francisco, the second of two gun rampages in California in latest days by which 18 individuals had been killed.
Chunli Zhao, a Chinese language citizen and the lone suspect in Monday’s bloodbath at two mushroom farms within the seaside city of Half Moon Bay, was formally introduced with seven counts of homicide and a single depend of tried homicide throughout his first court docket look in close by Redwood Metropolis.
Zhao, carrying red-colored jail garb and enclosed behind a glass panel, was ordered held with out bond throughout a short listening to earlier than a San Mateo County Superior Court docket decide. The pudgy defendant, with close-cropped grey hair, was expressionless by way of the listening to. He was assigned two personal protection attorneys; no plea was entered.
The following court docket continuing within the case was set for Feb. 16.
A Mandarin-language translator was offered for the defendant, who in line with District Legal professional Steve Wagstaffe is a Chinese language citizen who has lived in america for no less than 10 years.
After the listening to, Wagstaffe instructed reporters outdoors the courthouse that prosecutors haven’t but decided Zhao’s exact immigration standing, or whether or not he entered the nation legally.
The prosecutor mentioned authorities do have an concept concerning the suspect’s motives however declined to share any particulars. Wagstaffe additionally revealed the existence of 1 clue, saying a notice was discovered inside Zhao’s automobile, although he declined to reveal what it mentioned.
The district legal professional mentioned Zhao was “cooperative” when initially interviewed by authorities following his arrest and gave “a whole assertion.”
Nonetheless, the expectation is that Zhao will enter a not-guilty plea because the proceedings progress, “and we need to ensure that this man will get a good trial,” Wagstaffe mentioned.
Along with eight felony counts, the 10-page felony criticism alleges “particular circumstances,” accusing Zhao of “personally and deliberately” taking pictures to kill.
Beneath California regulation, defendants convicted of homicide with “particular circumstances” will be eligible for the demise penalty, although Governor Gavin Newsom in 2019 declared a moratorium on executions. The state has not put a condemned inmate to demise since 2006.
In any other case, the utmost sentence is life in jail with out the potential for parole, Wagstaffe mentioned.
Late on Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris paid a condolence go to to the Los Angeles suburb of Monterey Park, the place 11 individuals had been killed in a separate rampage at a ballroom dance corridor on Saturday night time by a gunman who later took his personal life.
Harris, a California native, laid flowers at a memorial arrange outdoors the dance studio, and briefly feedback to reporters referred to as for Congress to enact harder nationwide gun-safety measures. She then met privately with victims’ households.
NOT A ‘COPY CAT’
California’s firearm legal guidelines are among the many strictest within the nation, and the 2 shootings, coming in fast succession, left the state reeling from one of many bloodiest spates of mass gun violence in a long time.
Authorities mentioned every of the 2 killing sprees represented the only biggest lack of life from a single act of violence in Los Angeles and San Mateo counties.
Requested if investigators believed the Half Moon Bay killings had been a “copy-cat” crime impressed by the shootings in Monterey Park two days earlier, Wagstaffe mentioned flatly, “No.”
Zhao was taken into custody on Monday night outdoors a sheriff’s station, the place police mentioned he had pushed shortly after the assault on farm employees.
The exact motive for the taking pictures remained unclear. Zhao had been employed by one of many growers, Mountain Mushroom Farm, and had resided on the property together with another staff, in line with its house owners. Authorities mentioned early proof indicated the bloodshed stemmed from a office grievance. The second crime scene, Harmony Farms, is a few mile away.
Sheriff Christina Corpus mentioned in a CNN interview that the gunman “went after and pursued” particular victims, regardless that he had the possibility to harm others and that he was a “co-worker or former co-worker” of the victims at each taking pictures websites.
She mentioned Zhao was not identified to regulation enforcement earlier than Monday’s bloodshed. CNN and different media retailers have reported Zhao was the topic of a brief restraining order after a former co-worker accused him of attacking and threatening him in 2013.
Half Moon Bay, a city of 12,000 residents south of San Francisco, is house to each a luxurious resort and a low-income farming group. The taking pictures solid a renewed highlight on hardships confronted by the realm’s farm employees, lots of them immigrants from Latin America and Asia who typically stay in labor encampments and toil lengthy hours below poor situations for very low pay.
The killings there unfolded two days after a gunman 380 miles to the south opened hearth on the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, a membership frequented largely by older patrons of Asian descent in Monterey Park.
Along with the 11 individuals killed, 9 had been wounded in Saturday night time’s gunfire, which some survivors and bystanders mentioned they initially mistook for fireworks because the predominantly Asian-American group was celebrating the Lunar New Yr.
Authorities mentioned the assailant, Huu Can Tran, 72, drove a short while later to a second dance corridor, the place that membership’s operator disarmed him earlier than he might open hearth.
The following morning, Tran shot himself to demise behind the wheel of his car as police closed in on him south of Los Angeles.
Though his motive remained unclear, Tran was a identified common of the Star Ballroom. A tenant of a Los Angeles-rental property he owned recommended that Tran might have been nursing a grudge towards different patrons.
Each rampages had been notable for the suspects’ age, a lot older than typical in lethal mass shootings which have grown all too commonplace in america.
Authorities mentioned each gunmen used a semi-automatic pistols.
Reporting by Jorge Garcia in Redwood Metropolis, Calif.; Writing and reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Extra reporting by Alexandra Ulmer, Tim Reid, Gabriella Borter, Wealthy McKay, Brendan O’Brien, Brad Brooks, Jonathan Allen, Joseph Ax, Dan Whitcomb, Eric Beech, Omar Younis and Timothy Gardner; Enhancing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, David Gregorio and Leslie Adler
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