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California staggered by back-to-back shootings

People attend a candle light vigil for victims of a mass shooting outside the City Hall in Monterey Park, California, on Monday. — AFP
People attend a candle light vigil for victims of a mass shooting outside the City Hall in Monterey Park, California, on Monday. — AFP

MONTEREY PARK: Just two days after a gunman killed 11 people at a Los Angeles-area dance studio, seven more victims were shot dead in an agricultural area near San Francisco, as California suffered one of its bloodiest spates of mass gun violence in decades.


Authorities said they had not identified the motive for either of the rampages. The attacks seemed especially baffling in part because the suspects in each were men of retirement age, much older than is typical for perpetrators of deadly mass shootings that have become numbingly routine in the United States.


California Governor Gavin Newsom said he was visiting wounded survivors from Saturday night’s massacre in the Los Angeles suburb of Monterey Park when he was informed of Monday’s killings in northern California.


“Tragedy upon tragedy,” Newsom wrote on Twitter.


Otherwise, the back-to-back shootings appeared to have little in common. The latest gun carnage struck the coastal town of Half Moon Bay, about 30 miles south of San Francisco, where a gunman opened fire on groups of farm workers at two locations about a mile apart, leaving a total of seven dead and one badly wounded, then fled.


The accused gunman, identified as Chunli Zhao, 67, was taken into custody a short time later after he was found sitting in his vehicle, parked outside a sheriff’s station, where authorities said they believe he had come to turn himself in.


A semi-automatic handgun was found in his car, San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus told an evening news conference.


Corpus said the suspect, who was “fully cooperating” with investigators following his arrest, had worked at one of the two crime scenes. She described the sites as agricultural “nurseries,” where some of the workers also lived. Local media reported one site was a mushroom farm.


President Joe Biden said in a statement on Tuesday that he was briefed by his homeland security team on the shooting in Half Moon Bay and has directed his administration to ensure local authorities have support from the federal government.


“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.


In a separate Bay-area incident on Monday evening that drew far less attention, one person was killed and seven wounded in a “shooting between several individuals” in Oakland, police reported, in circumstances suggesting a case of gang violence. Police gave few details, but said the surviving victims had all gotten themselves to area hospitals.


News of the massacre in Half Moon Bay surfaced as police worked through a second full day of their investigation into the shooting at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, just east of downtown Los Angeles, where a gunman shot 11 people to death. — Reuters


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