Seven people have been killed in an agricultural region of northern California, authorities said on Monday, the latest shootings to rattle the state in recent days.
Two fatal shootings took place at a mushroom farm and a trucking firm on the outskirts of Half Moon Bay, a coastal community about 30 miles south of San Francisco, officials said.
Deputies responding to a call found four people dead and a fifth victim wounded at the first location in Half Moon Bay, then found three more dead at the second location nearby, Sheriff Christina Corpus told a news conference on Monday evening.
“This is a devastating tragedy for this community and the many families touched by this unspeakable act of violence,” said Corpus.
Police have arrested a suspect, named as 67-year-old Zhao Chunli, in connection with the shooting.
The shootings are being treated as related, although the connection between the locations was not immediately clear. Dave Pine, the president of the San Mateo county board of supervisors, said the suspect was employed at one of the businesses and called him a “disgruntled worker”.
The shooting followed the killing of 11 people over the weekend at a ballroom dance hall in the southern California city of Monterey Park, near Los Angeles. It also comes on the heels of a shooting in California’s Central Valley last week, where six people, including an infant, were killed in the small town of Goshen.
The San Mateo county sheriff’s office said it first received reports of a shooting just before 2.30pm and found four people dead from gunshot wounds at the first scene. Shortly thereafter, officers found three more people dead from gunshot wounds at a second location about 5 miles (8 km) away, Capt Eamonn Allen said in a news release.
The office did not share any information about the connection between the two locations, and the motive for the shooting is not known, Allen said.
About two hours after first responding, a sheriff’s deputy found the suspect, Zhao, in his car at a sheriff’s station in Half Moon Bay. He was taken into custody and a weapon was found in his vehicle. The sheriff’s department believes he acted alone, Allen said.
Half Moon Bay is a small coastal city with agricultural roots now home to about 12,000 people. The city and surrounding San Mateo county area is known for producing flowers as well as vegetables. The county allows cannabis farming in certain areas.
State senator Josh Becker, who represents much of San Mateo county, called the area “a very close-knit” agricultural community. “We’re still trying to understand exactly what happened and why, but it’s just incredibly, incredibly tragic,” Becker said.
Other public figures spoke out in shock at the killings, which also mark the nation’s sixth mass killing – that is, with at least four fatalities excluding any perpetrator – just 23 days into the new year.
“We are sickened by today’s tragedy in Half Moon Bay,” Pine said in a statement. “We have not even had time to grieve for those lost in the terrible shooting in Monterey Park. Gun violence must stop.”
“Two hours ago I joined my colleagues on the Capitol steps for a vigil for the victims of the shooting in Monterey Park,” tweeted Marc Berman, a member of the California state assembly. Before we’ve even had a chance to mourn them, there is yet another mass shooting – this time in Half Moon Bay. In my district.”
California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, described it as “tragedy upon tragedy”.
“At the hospital meeting with victims of a mass shooting when I get pulled away to be briefed about another shooting. This time in Half Moon Bay,” the governor tweeted.