The man suspected of killing seven of his fellow farm workers in California and injuring another faces the death penalty if convicted, a prosecutor said on Wednesday (January 25th) in his first court appearance. court.
Chunli Zhao, 66, was arrested Monday outside the Half Moon Bay police station, shortly after the two attacks on farms in this city near San Francisco.
He appeared in court Wednesday in Redwood City, wearing an orange inmate outfit.
He is expected to face seven counts of homicide and one of attempted homicide, and what prosecutors call a special circumstance for multiple murders.
His attorney requested that his formal indictment be dismissed.
Judge Susan Jakubowski ordered Chunli Zhao to remain in custody, and to appear again on February 16.
The special circumstance could earn him
“life in prison or the death penalty
,” San Mateo County District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe told the San
This decision will be made
"once the investigation is complete, when we have learned everything we can"
about the suspect, added Stephen Wagstaffe.
Sheriff Christina Corpus said on Tuesday that the suspect appeared to know his victims, five men and two women, who were of Asian or Hispanic origin.
“All the evidence we have suggests this is a case of workplace violence
,” she said.
He allegedly used a legally purchased semi-automatic weapon.
Chunli Zhao and his wife lived, along with other employees, at the Mountain Mushroom Farms site where the first attack took place.
Read alsoEighteen dead in California, hit by two killings in 48 hours
According to court documents, five of his victims have Chinese names, and two were in their 70s.
The Mexican consulate in San Francisco confirmed that two Mexican men died in the double shooting.
Another survived and is hospitalized, the consulate told AFP.
A former colleague of the suspect, with whom he would have worked in a restaurant, had obtained a removal order against him for violence, the
San Francisco Chronicle
newspaper reported on Tuesday .
"Today I'm going to kill you," Chunli Zhao allegedly told her before trying to smother her with a pillow.
Monday's shooting, less than 48 hours after 11 people were murdered at a popular Asian ballroom near Los Angeles, shocked the large community of Asian Americans in California.
US Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Monterey Park, the scene of the killings, on Wednesday to meet the families of some of the victims.
These tragedies have also renewed calls for stricter regulation of firearms.
"What's wrong with us, that we allow weapons of war and high-capacity magazines on the streets?"
, California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Tuesday.