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Coastal town of Half Moon Bay mourns mass slaying

A singing bowl held by a Buddhist monk was struck once for each of seven people shot dead in Half Moon Bay as residents gathered to grieve in a local church late Tuesday.

The rural town in northern California was shaken by the mass shooting on Monday in which an Asian man killed fellow Asian and Hispanic farmworkers.

More than 50 people sought solace in community during a multi-denominational service in a house of worship on a stretch of scenic Pacific Coast Highway.

Downtown, bouquets of flowers had been placed as an impromptu memorial in a plaza on a main street known more for tourists than tributes to victims of violence.

"This is a tight-knit community and an impact like this is devastating," Alice Kope said as she left the vigil.

"It's just so hard to understand why this keeps happening," she said of gun violence.

Kope, a native California resident of Korean descent, felt it even more troubling that the mass shooting was the second in just a few days in the state, with another older Asian man targeting others in his community.

"My Asian friends are all wondering what is going on," Kope said.

"Elderly Asian men being the perpetrators of such violence makes no sense; and then the Lunar New Year starting it. A lot of us have so many questions."

- Guns to blame?-

Sophie Li, a Chinese American woman working in Shiki Japanese Cuisine restaurant in Half Moon Bay, was among those who laid blame on access to guns in the United States.

"Without a gun, we just argue," Li said.

"I never thought they would carry a gun, and then shoot Chinese people; I can't believe it happened that way," she said of the Asian men identified as the shooters.

Residents of this small town just a short drive from San Francisco and Silicon Valley told of having their sense of safety shaken by the mass shooting and turned to one another for support.

"What happened yesterday in this community is devastating," San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus said at a press briefing.

"Many of the workers came to this country to work to provide for their families, instead yesterday, many of them lost family members."

Bouquets of flowers were left at an impromptu memorial on the town's main street.

"I never thought this would happen in this community in a million years," said Kemera Gilbert, a Northern California woman who moved to Half Moon Bay to escape the stresses of life.

"I feel for everybody who lost someone," she said, holding back tears.

Religious leaders at the vigil read poems, led prayers, and pointed out resources to help people work through the trauma and fear.

"Farm workers are one of the backbones of our community," longtime resident Leslie Hunt said as she left the vigil.

"This is the first big tragedy we've had; I feel the need to get together with other people; see them, touch them."

gc/md/mtp