Prosecutor Shares the Baffling Motive Behind the Half Moon Bay Shooting Spree

Zhao Chunli, 67, suspected of murdering 7 co-workers in Half Moon Bay, CA on Monday, January 23, 2023, is arrested by San Mateo County authorities. (Credit: Liz Kreutz, ABC 7 News/Twitter)

Chunli Zhao officially remains a suspect in the Half Moon Bay murder spree, but he has now admitted to killing or wounding all of the victims. There seems little need to “suspect” anyone else.


What prompted his rampage? A $100 debt.

According to two eyewitnesses, Zhao was smiling and laughing as he killed the first victims. According to The Mercury News:

“A pair of sisters told the Bay Area News Group they watched Zhao initiate the shooting spree through their car’s windshield.

“He was laughing, he was smiling,” said one of the sisters, Erlin Ortiz. “We saw him get on the forklift, and when he turned to see us, he was making fun of the situation.”

Zhao was one of 35 people who lived on the California Terra Gardens’ property. According to authorities, Zhao holds a valid Green Card. The Green Card allowed Zhao to work in the United States and permitted him to buy and own firearms. He’s a Chinese national who has been in the United States for 11 years.

The gunman and his wife lived in a run-down “trailer” paying $300 a month in rent.

Zhao was a forklift operator at California Terra Gardens. Apparently, there was a collision between his forklift and a dump truck. Zhao’s supervisor told him that he would have to pay $100 for the damage caused by the accident. Zhao became enraged, pulled out a firearm, and killed the supervisor and then a coworker. He then turned toward the sisters watching from their car but instead of attempting to kill them, he laughed. Zhao then went to the trailer of the coworker he had just killed and killed the coworker’s wife. After gunning down the wife he found two more victims at California Terra Gardens and shot them.


After he had killed the four and wounded one at his place of employment, he took the 7-minute drive to his former employer’s farm, finding and killing an assistant manager who, according to the interview Zhao gave in jail, had “wronged him.” He then killed another couple before the rampage stopped – and Zhao was arrested in the parking lot

California Terra Gardens is reportedly housing all workers in hotels as the State of California investigates not just the massacre but the housing conditions on the property.

Zhao has apparently shown “remorse” and, as indicated, he’s admitted that he and he alone killed and wounded all of the victims. He’s been charged with seven counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, with related felonies that on conviction, result in life in prison.

The victims are:

Zhishen Liu, 73, of San Francisco; Marciano Martinez Jimenez, 50, of Moss Beach, California; Aixiang Zhang, 74, of San Francisco; Qizhong Cheng, 66, of Half Moon Bay; Jingzhi Lu, 64, of Half Moon Bay; and Yetao Bing, 43, Jose Romero Perez (age unknown) as the seventh person killed. Pedro Romero Perez was the surviving eighth victim.


All of this, over $100.


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