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Half Moon Bay, California mass shooting suspect identified

Police officers detain a man, believed by law enforcement to be the Half Moon Bay mass shooting suspect, in Half Moon Bay, California, on January 23. (Courtesy Kati McHugh)

When police in Half Moon Bay announced a news conference about a mass shooting in the area, Kati McHugh decided to attend, not expecting that she would witness the arrest of the suspect — or that the suspect would park his vehicle next to her own.

McHugh recalled seeing police cars, fire trucks — every first responder — driving fast down the roads on Monday. It was her first indication that something was happening in the northern California community. 

She and a few others, including members of the press, were milling around in the parking lot before the news conference was set to take place at a San Mateo County sheriff’s substation.  

She said she remembered seeing the suspect’s maroon SUV drive into the parking lot. Even though she knew police were searching for a maroon SUV, it didn’t even occur to her it could be that vehicle. 

The suspect’s driving in the parking lot did catch her attention — he had stopped short at one point — but she said he eventually parked the car. It was in the space next to hers. 

McHugh went back to her car and then a number of police officers came out from a building and told her to move away.

That’s when she began to realize what was going on. 

A photojournalist near her car took a knee; McHugh backed away and took cover behind a tree. 

“I thought a tree was a good option,” she said as she took a video of the arrest of the suspect that was shared widely.

The footage shows officers with their weapons drawn approaching the vehicle, the suspect emerge and the officers pulling him to the ground and handcuffing him. Police vehicles race into the parking lot and surround the scene. The second video shows police walking the handcuffed suspect toward the substation.

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