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Accused Half Moon Bay gunman claims he suffered 'years of bullying' before killing 7

Alexandra E. Petri, Salvador Hernandez and Terry Castleman, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. — Amid a state investigation into workplace conditions at the San Mateo County farms where seven people were killed this week, the farmworker charged in the massacre said he had experienced “years of bullying” and working long hours before opening fire.

Chunli Zhao, 66, in a jailhouse interview with NBC Bay Area, admitted that he took a semiautomatic handgun and opened fire on his co-workers Monday.

San Mateo County District Attorney Stephen M. Wagstaffe told The Times in an interview that although he could not go into details in the case, the suspect’s comments to the TV station were “consistent with what he told law enforcement.”

In the 15-minute interview, the alleged gunman also said he had been suffering from “some sort of mental illness” and was “not in his right mind” at the time of the shooting.

He said he planned to turn himself in to law enforcement when he drove to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office and was writing a note in his car before he was taken into custody.

NBC Bay Area’s Janelle Wang said the suspect also told her he regretted the deadly incident.


State officials Thursday said they had opened investigations into labor and workplace practices at the two sites of Monday’s fatal shootings, casting a spotlight on the lives of California’s farmworkers, who often live and work in dangerous conditions.

The investigation comes after Gov. Gavin Newsom visited the beachside community Tuesday. Newsom spoke with the victims’ families and co-workers about the deadly shooting and their workplace environment.

Without naming specifics, Newsom said some farmworkers were “living in shipping containers” and working for $9 an hour, well below the state minimum wage of $15.50.

“No healthcare, no support, no services, but (they’re) taking care of our health, providing a service to us each and every day,” he said at the news conference.


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