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Leaders gather 1 year after Half Moon Bay mass shooting to help farmworkers recover

By Damian Trujillo Published January 23, 2024 Updated on January 23, 2024 at 5:11 pm

Tuesday marked a grim anniversary in the Bay Area. 

It was a year ago that a mass shooter opened fire on co-workers at two farms in Half Moon Bay.

As local leaders gathered to remember the lives lost, the suspected gunman, Chunli Zhao, was back in court answering to a new indictment for the killings.

A memorial of fresh flowers adorned the main plaza in downtown, honoring the lives of the farmworkers killed.

Flanked by Congresswoman Anna Esho and former Department of Housing and Urban Development Sec. Julian Castro, Pedro Romero found the courage to speak a few words to a roundtable of national and community leaders.

“I feel very sad,” he said.

Romero was the lone survivor of the mass shooting, and he still suffers from the lasting effects of multiple gunshot wounds.

“When we left our homes, we didn’t think this would happen,” he said.

Romero lost his brother, Jose, in the mass shooting.

Tuesday’s roundtable was meant as a chance to talk about lessons learned and how to help the farmworker community recover and move forward.

It's a community that lives in the shadows, Eshoo said.

“Understanding that in the aftermath of this that there was shame,” she said. “That we didn’t know who these workers were. It pulled the veil off of the face of the community for the shortages, the gaps, our collective failures.”

The last year has brought promises of better conditions and more farmworker housing.

Eshoo said the county purchased one of the farm properties and will use it to create some of that farmworker housing.

The city is also moving to open a new housing complex for migrant farmworkers by April.

“The community here has so much history and so much heart and is so important to the state of California,” said Castro. “But too often they get overlooked, this farmworker community.”

Castro now heads the Latino Community Foundation, a powerful statewide agency that vows to never abandon the farmworkers of Half Moon Bay.

In an exclusive jailhouse interview with NBC Bay Area, Zhao confessed to the killings. He is in jail on no bail. 

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