The man accused of two mass shootings in Half Moon Bay, California, on Monday has been charged with seven counts of murder and one count of attempted murder.
Chunli Zhao, 66, did not enter a plea in his first court appearance on Wednesday afternoon. His charges reportedly make him eligible for the death penalty.
That decision “is something that will take place over the course of the next many, many months,” San Mateo County District Attorney Steven Wagstaffe told reporters.
The shootings occurred on Monday afternoon at two mushroom farms. As Zhao, a Chinese immigrant, is believed to be connected to at least one of the farms, the incident is being investigated as a case of workplace violence.
Court documents link Zhao to a violent past.
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In 2013, he received a temporary restraining order after Yingjiu Wang, a former coworker and roommate, accused him of threatening their life and attempting to suffocate them with a pillow. “Mr. Zhao said to me, today I am going to kill you,” Wang alleged in the documents. “He then took a pillow and started to cover my face and suffocate me. … While I couldn’t breathe, I used all my might within the few seconds to push him away with my blanket.” Should prosecutors not seek the death penalty, Zhao could face a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
In addition to the murder and attempted murder charges, he is facing firearm use enhancements and “a special circumstance allegation of multiple murder.”
The deceased victims have all been identified as of Wednesday.
They are: Ai Xiang Zhang, 74; Zhi Shen Liu, 73; Qi Zhong Cheng, 66; Jing Zhi Lu, 64; Marciano Jimenez Martinez, 50; Ye Tao Bing, 43; and Jose Romero Perez, whose age was not immediately known.
Meanwhile, the surviving victim was identified as Pedro Romero Perez, who was airlifted to Stanford Medical Center to undergo surgery.
Zhao is being held without bail. His arraignment is scheduled for Feb. 16.