TIM REID AND ALEXANDRA ULMER
A deadly rampage by a 67-year-old suspect in Northern California was likely an act of workplace violence, authorities said, offering fresh details about the second in back-to-back mass shootings that killed 18 people and horrified the nation.
The two shootings within three days have left the state of California reeling as investigators worked to identify the 11 people killed on Saturday at a Los Angeles-area dance hall and the seven killed on Monday in the seaside town of Half Moon Bay near San Francisco.
Authorities were trying to determine the motives for both shootings. Officials said preliminary evidence indicated that the massacre in Half Moon Bay appeared to be a case of workplace violence and that the gunman had used a legally-owned weapon.
The suspects in both attacks are men of retirement age, much older than typical perpetrators of deadly mass shootings that have become routine in the United States.
On Monday, a gunman in Half Moon Bay opened fire on employees at Mountain Mushroom Farm, where he had previously worked, and Concord Farms, about a mile away.
The accused gunman, identified as Chunli Zhao, 67, was taken into custody later after he was found sitting in his vehicle, parked outside a sheriff’s station. Authorities said they believe he had come to surrender.
He killed seven and wounded one, and all of his victims were Hispanic and Asian Americans, San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus told reporters on Tuesday.
“All of the evidence we have points to this being the instance of workplace violence,” Corpus said.
The district attorney was expected to file charges against Zhao on Wednesday morning, ahead of his scheduled court appearance in Redwood City.
President Joe Biden said in a statement on Tuesday that he had been briefed on the Half Moon Bay shooting and had directed his administration to support local authorities.
“Even as we await further details on these shootings, we know the scourge of gun violence across America requires stronger action,” he said, calling on Congress to reintroduce a federal assault weapons ban.
News of the latest massacre surfaced as detectives were still investigating the Saturday night shooting at Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, just east of downtown Los Angeles, where a gunman killed 11 people and wounded nine.
Authorities said the suspect, Huu Can Tran, 72, then drove to a second dance hall nearby. The club’s operator wrestled his weapon away, thwarting another mass shooting there.
Tran, a longtime patron of the Star Ballroom, fled in a white cargo van. Police cornered him about 12 hours later in Torrance, south of Los Angeles, and then he fatally shot himself.
Saturday’s violence unfolded in the midst of a Chinese Lunar New Year celebration in Monterey Park, a hub of the Asian-American community in Southern California, raising initial concerns that the attack was racially motivated.
Among the 11 victims were two fishermen from Taiwan, according to the Taiwanese consulate in Los Angeles, and multiple Chinese citizens, according to the Chinese consulate.
Some were regulars at the dance studio, according to their family and friends. In a statement, the family of Valentino Marcos Alvero remembered the Filipino man as a loving grandfather and “the life of any party.”
It ranked as the deadliest mass shooting ever in Los Angeles County, according to Hilda Solis, a member of the county Board of Supervisors.
By comparison, the 1984 massacre of 21 people at a McDonald’s restaurant in San Diego stands as the greatest loss of life from a single California shooting.
The two latest shootings were also notable for the age of the suspects, one in his late 60s, another in his early 70s.
A database of 185 mass shootings between 1966 and 2022 maintained by the nonprofit Violence Project includes just one carried out by someone 70 or older – a retired miner who killed five people in Kentucky in 1981.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna told reporters on Monday that investigators had collected 42 bullet casings and a large-capacity ammunition magazine from the dance studio.
He said a search of the suspect’s mobile home in a gated senior living community in the town of Hemet, 80 miles east of Los Angeles, turned up a rifle, electronic devices and items “that lead us to believe the suspect was manufacturing homemade” weapons silencers. Police also seized hundreds of rounds of ammunition from the dwelling and a handgun from the suspect’s vehicle.
Monterey Park Police Chief Scott Wiese said investigators were looking into unconfirmed reports that the violence may have been sparked by jealousy or relationship issues.