7 Found Killed At Alleged Illegal Pot Grow House In Riverside County
The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the murders of seven people at a home that it says was the site of "a major organized crime type operation" to grow illegal marijuana. Sheriff Chad Bianco has asked federal law enforcement to assist in the investigation.
Around midnight on Monday, the department says deputies responded to a report of assault with a deadly weapon at a residence in the 45000 block of Highway 371 in the unincorporated area of Aguanga, less than 20 miles east of Temecula.
They found an adult female suffering from gunshot wounds; she was rushed to a hospital but died. Six other shooting victims were found dead at the scene.
The department said it has yet to locate any suspects.
Authorities said they found several hundred marijuana plants and more than 1,000 pounds of marijauana at the property, which had multiple makeshift dwellings and buildings, Bianco said.
At a news conference Tuesday, Bianco said the complex had "a nursery type place, where they were growing plants. There were places to dry the plants. There were places to process the plants ... This was not a small operation, this was a very organized crime type of operation."
All the people on site who were potential witnesses or victims were Laotian, the sheriff added.
A lot of the cars parked at the house were registered in various states, said Bianco, who said he requested federal help because "this is not going to be an easy investigation" and it will likely span multiple states.
By some measures, illegal cultivation hasn’t slowed since marijuana was legalized in California. Some analysts say high taxes and tough licensing rules make it hard to turn a profit selling legal pot.
One measure is the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, an annual July-September state effort to eradicate illegal marijuana farms on public and private lands. It's on track to seize its one millionth plant of 2020 by the end of this week, said Jack Nelson, a regional operations commander for the California Department of Justice. That’s compared with about 600,000 in 2016, he said.
This story has been updated.