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Remembrance honors those lost one year after Half Moon Bay mass shooting

By Max Darrow

Updated on: January 23, 2024 / 6:42 PM PST / CBS San Francisco

One year after the deadly mass shooting at two mushroom farms in Half Moon Bay, the community is remembering the victims and continuing to find ways to move forward.

The shootings on January 23, 2023, took the lives of seven farm workers and shed light on the difficult living conditions of many farm worker families.

Suspected Half Moon Bay mass shooting gunman Chunli Zhao was back in a San Mateo County courtroom Tuesday, where a judge granted a request to move his arraignment to next month.

The nonprofit Ayudando Latinos a Soñar" or ALAS is holding a pair events on Tuesday built around the the tragic shooting. A roundtable discussion was held at the ALAS Sueño Center that included speakers Dr. Belinda Hernandez Arriaga,  the founder and Executive Director of ALAS, CEO of the Latino Community Foundation Julian Castro, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Supervisor Ray Mueller, and State Attorney General Rob Bonta  to address gun violence. 

"California is a state that is proud to be regularly rated as having the strongest gun violence prevention, laws, and rules and approaches in the nation, but still we are not immune. And that pain touches all of us in this state," said Bonta.

On Tuesday evening, a memorial event is being held at ALAS Casita and Garden starting at 6 p.m. that is open to the public. Artist Fernando Escartiz is unveiling a new work paying tribute to victims entitled Corazón del Campesino. The evening will also include art, poetry, and music as the community reflects on those who were lost in the shooting.  

"This art piece at ALAS stands as a tribute to the farmworkers we will never forget, reminding us of the imperative ongoing advocacy that must lead our efforts for change," said Arriaga in a press release issued by ALAS. 

A year after the tragedy, locals are still finding it hard to discuss.

"It's very difficult to talk about," said Mayor Joaquin Jimenez.

"It is difficult to think about," said Judith Guerrero, the Executive Director of Coastside Hope.

Even though time ticks on, the community's collective heart still hurts.

"A year is not enough to heal," Guerrero said.

But a year is long enough to see the seeds of change start to grow.

After the mass shooting, the world saw the dire conditions that many farm workers were living in. Since then, city, county, and state leaders have all started working together to fix this problem.

"It's a feeling of hope," said Jimenez, standing outside what is slated to be a future site for farm worker housing in his community. "Farmworkers are being recognized. It's long overdue."

At the beginning of January, San Mateo County Supervisors voted to purchase a 50 acre nursery on Highway 1 that has been closed since 2019, for around $9 million. The plan is to turn it into place with 100 units of farm worker housing and a farming co-op for the county. It's the second site in the works in Half Moon Bay designed to improve living conditions for farm workers.

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