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"As a community we grieve": Half Moon Bay residents say mass murders must stop

Half Moon Bay community reeling from deadly shootings
Half Moon Bay community reeling from deadly shootings 03:36

HALF MOON BAY -- Bouquets of flowers were laid in front of a sign that reads: "As a community we grieve." It's the same message echoed by Half Moon Bay residents walking down Main Street on Tuesday, a day after the largest mass shooting in San Mateo County history. 

At a Tuesday morning news conference, San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus said six men and two women were allegedly shot by Half Moon Bay resident Chunli Zhao, 66. Officials later confirmed that five of the men and both women were killed. A male victim underwent surgery at Stanford and is in stable condition.

They also confirmed that Zhao was an employee at the Mountain Mushroom Farm where four were killed. He had previously worked at Concord Farms where he killed three more people.

Gov. Gavin Newsom met with victims' families, local leaders, and first responders on Tuesday in a meeting closed to media to hear about the impacts of the tragedies at two local farms and how to assist moving forward. 

Some community members arrived at the Half Moon Bay IDES Center, where families gathered Monday night as a respite, to bring clothing, food, and flowers to show the families and farm workers displaced by the crime scenes and trauma that they are not alone. 

"It may help them to know that people care," one community told CBS13. 

Flowers were left at the reunification center on Tuesday by community members ahead of the Governor's address to the media. 

"These mass murders are way too common, they have to stop," said another community member speaking to CBS13 while she dropped off flowers. 

"Many of you come to the community for the pumpkins and ignore the farmworkers...not today. We're not ignoring anybody," said Joaquin Jimenez, Vice Mayor of Half Moon Bay. 

The Half Moon Bay community of agricultural workers has faced two events in January that have devastated the community. 

First came the historic storms that dumped more than a foot of rain over a 22-day span, turning fields into quagmires and idling workers as farms shut down operations.

Then on Monday, Zhao killed four workers at Mountain Mushroom Farm where he was employed, and then drove to a second farm where he was previously employed and killed three more.

"This is something that is going to change how we do things in our community, how it's going to affect the farm working community, the fear they have going back to the farms," said Jimenez. 

Mental health counseling was available for victims' families and witnesses to the mass shooting in Half Moon Bay. Local leaders announced Tuesday they were working with agricultural workers who were displaced by the shootings, unable to go back to work as the farms are now crime scenes, with a hotel stay and income for the immediate future. 

Community members brought clothes, food, and other items of support to individuals who may need them Monday night. The generosity and support continued Tuesday as local nonprofits rallied to raise funds for agricultural families who needed support, especially those who are unable to return to work for the foreseeable future. 

"We're not going to back away from our resolve and commitment because it works," said Gov. Newsom. 

When asked about California's future, already a state with a reputation for some of the strictest gun laws and one of the lowest gun death rates in the country, Newsom said the laws and regulations work -- but one party can't do it alone. 

"It's incredibly important if people want to know how to solve this, take a look at what California's done, but we are not isolated... you're only as good as your weakest links," Newsom said.

"The federal government needs to do its job. Let's call it out. We have one party that are obstructionists'." Newsom added, "If I seem passionate and intense about it, it's because I'm damn sick and tired of it." 

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