A Chinese farm worker accused of shooting and killing seven people and wounding another in Half Moon Bay had longstanding work-related grievances but may have been triggered by a $100 repair bill over a farm-equipment crash, the San Mateo County district attorney revealed Friday.
The city district attorney said, confirming an assertion already made by Chunli Zhao – a 66-year-old forklift operator at one of the two farms targeted during the attack – in a recent jailhouse interview.
The shooting took place last Monday, and was the third to hit the Golden State in just as many days – leaving members of the small coastal community just outside of San Francisco struggling to make sense of the tragedy, according to Daily Mail.
Speaking to a Bay Area new outlet, Wagstaffe finally provided insight as to Zhao’s motives for carrying out the assault on his employer California Terra Garden farm, and the nearby Concord Farms, two days after being arraigned in Redwood City.
The report, published Friday by Bay Area News Group, referenced a claim made by Zhao this week from jail, in which he admitted he carried out the rampage over a bill from his boss over damage caused by a collision between Zhao’s forklift and a co-worker’s bulldozer.
The damages amounted to $100, Zhao said – a sum that seemingly proved enough to fan the flames of his pent-up rage.
According to Daily Mail, Zhao had argued that his co-worker was to blame for the damages – proceeded to recount how the Chinese immigrant stormed the farm where he had worked for six years and shot both the supervisor and coworker involved in the disagreement, as well as two others on the farm.
Shortly after, according to a worker who survived and witnessed the attack, Zhao would get into his forklift to travel to the second mushroom farm, Concord Farms, where he claimed three more victims.
‘I’m still scared and trying to figure out what happened,’ the first witness told CNN Tuesday of how he ran for cover with other farm hands as the suspect opened fire, killing four of his coworkers. He then added: ‘I don’t understand.’
The witness further revealed to the outlet that he had worked with Zhao for about six years at the farm before the tragedy – claim that was supported from an employee who spoke to ABC who said Zhao had worked at the farm for somewhere between ‘five to six years’ as a forklift driver.
Investigators have since confirmed that Zhao had been an employee at the first targeted farm.
After carrying the first part of the massacre, the witness said, Zhao fled the scene on the same forklift that may have led to the tragedy.
On Thursday, The San Mateo Coroner’s Office named six of the victims: Zhishen Liu, 73; Marciano Martinez Jimenez, 50; Aixiang Zhang, 74; Qizhong Cheng, 66; Jingzhi Lu, 64; and Yetao Bing, 43.
Charging documents released that day would identify the remaining victim as Jose Romero Perez, and another victim who was wounded but survived as Pedro Romero Perez.
Speaking with FOX2 KTVU Friday, Wagstaffe added that Zhao had long been disgruntled over other work-related disputes but that being hit with the bill may have ‘lit the candle’ for the massacre.
Other workplace-related grievances aired by Zhao in his courthouse interview, given on Thursday, included that he was bullied by his coworkers and that he was forced to work long hours – all while his complaints to management were ignored.
Zhao was taken into custody hours after the attack while parking his van in a Half Moon Bay police substation.Zhao’s criminal history has not been made public by authorities.
In 2013, Zhao was accused of trying to suffocate his roommate and threatening to split his head open with a knife, reports the New York Times.
The pair worked at the same restaurant with Zhao accusing his friend, Yingjiu Wang, of stealing his pay check.
Wang as granted a temporary restraining order against Zhao. It’s not known if the suspect has ever been diagnosed with any kind of mental illness.
According to Daily Mail, he is said to be cooperating with the investigation, and if facing seven charges of first-degree murder.
He has yet to enter a plea, with his next hearing scheduled for February 16.