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California farm shooting suspect to appear in court

Five men and two women died after a shooter attacked two farms in Half Moon Bay, California, south of San Francisco. ©AFP

Los Angeles (AFP) - The man suspected of killing seven fellow farmworkers and wounding another in Half Moon Bay, California was expected to appear in court Wednesday to face multiple murder charges.

Zhao Chunli was arrested Monday at a sheriff's substation in the coastal city south of San Francisco, shortly after twin attacks at farms in the area.

Five men and two women -- all of Asian or Hispanic descent -- died at the two sites.

San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus said Tuesday that it appeared the suspect, who is in his late 60s, had known the victims.

"All the evidence we have points to this being an instance of workplace violence," she said.

Zhao is expected to be charged with seven counts of murder and one of attempted murder, a spokesperson for the San Mateo County District Attorney said.

Zhao and his wife were among workers who lived at Mountain Mushroom Farms, the site of the first attack.

Captain Eamonn Allen said Tuesday the sheriff's department was working to support the suspect's wife.

"They lived on the property together, so there’s a very real concern of retribution or backlash on her," Allen said, according to the San Jose Mercury.

The San Francisco Chronicle on Tuesday reported a former co-worker had been granted a restraining order against Zhao over violent behavior.

"Zhao said to me, today I am going to kill you," Jingjiu Wang wrote in 2013 when the two worked at a San Jose restaurant together.

"He then took a pillow and started to cover my face and suffocate me."

The Half Moon Bay attacks came on the heels of a deadly rampage in Monterey Park, outside Los Angeles on Saturday in which an elderly Asian gunman killed 11 people at a dance club.

He shot himself dead the following morning as police moved in.

Both attackers are believed to have used semi-automatic weapons.

The two horrific episodes sparked bafflement from California's large Asian American community, as people struggled to understand how they could have happened.

They also led to outrage over America's inaction to tighten gun control laws, with California Governor Gavin Newsom blasting federal lawmakers for failing to address the issue.

"What the hell is wrong with us, that we allow these weapons of war and large capacity clips out on the streets and sidewalks?" he said in Half Moon Bay on Tuesday.

"Only in America.Number one in gun ownership.Number one in gun deaths.It's not even complicated," he said.

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