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Half Moon Bay mass shooting devastating to local farmworker community

Half Moon Bay farmworker community devastated by mass shooting that followed damaging flooding
Half Moon Bay farmworker community devastated by mass shooting that followed damaging flooding 02:48

HALF MOON BAY -- It has been a challenging time for migrant farmworkers in the agricultural communities along the Northern California coast.

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, 66-year-old Chunli 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.

"The coast has experienced its share of challenges over the last few weeks," Capt. Eamonn Allen, a spokesman with the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, told reporters on Tuesday. "Specifically as it relates to all the incredible weather we've had. There's been flooding. There's been people out of work...this just adds to that stress."

Many of the people who worked in the mushroom farms lived on site with their families in trailers and some of the children reportedly witnessed the violence.

The families have been temporarily relocated to area motels...where they are joining many of the other families already displaced by the floods.    


Days before the shooting, Joaquin Jimenez, who is the Farmworker Program Director for ALAS, an organization that helps local workers in the agricultural community, spoke with KPIX about the dire local conditions.

Jimenez has been very busy since late December, checking on local workers and farms that have been hit hard by the storms, leaving some of local farmworkers having to find housing due to flooding,

"We're helping families to relocate," Jimenez said. "The ones that are flooded out completely, they were relocated to hotels."

One farmworker KPIX spoke with has been out of work for days and the impact can be devastating.

"If they don't work, they don't get paid," Jimenez said, adding it could take days before they can even get back to work.

Several homes along the coast also dealt with no electricity; in some cases, the power outage lasted for more than a week.

"They were without electricity for eight days, all the food in their refrigerator all went bad," said Jimenez, who is also Half Moon Bay's Vice Mayor.

Several farmworkers and their families lived in mobile homes at the Mountain Mushroom Farm in mobile homes.  In the wake of the mass shooting, they have been forced to relocate to hotels and offered mental health and other support.

 Jimenez said the farm employs 20 to 30 Chinese and Latino workers, some of them undocumented.

"There's a lot of fear," Jimenez said. "We have to understand, a lot of our farmworker community is also undocumented, so there's also the fear of that, of their legal status. So, for them to come forward to ask for help is going to be very difficult."

It has also been a challenge to notify the next of kin of the deaths of their loved ones. 

Sheriff Christina Corpus told reporters Tuesday it would be a while before the identities of the victims can be released since the coroner's office was facing the difficult challenge of tracking down their families.

For more information on how to help the Half Moon Bay farmworker community, visit ALAS (Ayudando a Latinos a Soñar) at

The Farmworker Caravan, an organization that has been conducting a relief drive to provide support for farm workers impacted by recent flooding and the Half Moon Bay Shooting, is also asking for donations and volunteers to help with their efforts. More information and a sign-up page are available online here.    

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