A dispute over a $100 repair bill might have motivated the suspect in the Half Moon Bay mass shootings, according to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.
Chunli Zhao, 66, has been charged with seven counts of murder, one count of attempted murder — all with firearm use enhancements — and a “special circumstance allegation of multiple murder” for the shootings at two mushroom farms on Jan. 23. Days later, he admitted to the killings in a jailhouse interview with NBC Bay Area, claiming he was bullied by farm coworkers for years.
However, the shootings may have been triggered specifically by a $100 repair bill that Zhao’s boss at California Terra Garden — where he last worked and the site of the first shooting — allegedly ordered him to pay for damage to a heavy construction equipment.
Zhao blamed a coworker for the collision between his forklift and the latter’s bulldozer, according to an earlier report by NBC Bay Area.
Zhao then allegedly shot his coworker and boss. He then headed to his coworker’s trailer and allegedly shot his wife and two more people.
Zhao’s boss, coworker, the coworker’s wife and one of the last two people he shot at California Terra Garden were killed.
Afterward, he drove to Concord Farms — where he worked five years prior — and allegedly shot to death a former assistant manager whom he accused of mistreating him, as well as another couple.
Wagstaffe told KTVU on Friday that the $100 bill may have “lit the candle” but stressed later that a motive has not been confirmed.
“I am not declaring it a fact that (the $100 bill dispute) sparked the shooting. Much more investigation to do. But it is certainly what Zhao is saying,” Wagstaffe told CNN on Monday.
Aside from being bullied, Zhao has complained about long work hours at the farms. California officials have begun investigating their labor and workplace practices.