After confronting his supervisor and a co-worker, whom Zhao thought were responsible for the collision between his forklift and a bulldozer, he allegedly shot them, according to reports confirmed by Wagstaffe.
The Half Moon Bay shooting has brought attention to the poor working conditions of farmworkers in the area.
The Post reported that workers were living in trailers or converted shipping containers, with a lack of access to indoor kitchens or toilets. Over the past two years, there had been a series of problems, including a prior shooting, a fire and a coronavirus outbreak.
Zhao had felt bullied for years at the California Terra Garden farm, he said in Mandarin in a jailhouse interview last week with reporter Janelle Wang of KNTV. He worked long hours, Wang said, and when he voiced complaints to his supervisor, he often felt ignored. Prosecutors said Zhao had previously worked at Concord Farms, the second location he targeted.
Wang said that Zhao believes he suffers from mental illness and needs to see a doctor.
Zhao had exhibited workplace rage before. In 2013, he was accused of threatening a co-worker and separately tried to suffocate him, the San Francisco Chronicle reported, citing court documents.
Zhao, a Chinese national, said in the KNTV interview that he was a green-card holder who had lived in the United States for 11 years. The farm employs mostly Chinese and Latino workers, a local official said.
If convicted of all charges, Zhao could face life in prison or the death penalty, Wagstaffe told reporters outside the courthouse in Redwood City, Calif., on Wednesday.
The victims of the shooting were Zhishen Liu, 73; Qizhong Cheng, 66; Marciano Martinez Jimenez, 50; Yetao Bing, 43; Aixiang Zhang, 74; and Jingzhi Lu, 64, according to the San Mateo Coroner’s Office.