Seven killings investigated at illegal pot grow in California – Press Herald

AGUANGA, Calif. — Detectives on Tuesday investigated what prompted the Labor Day killings of seven people at an illegal marijuana growing operation in a small, rural Southern California community known for its horse ranches and nurseries along dirt roads.

The fatal shootings in Aguanga, north of San Diego, represent the latest flashpoint in the violence that often permeates California’s illegal marijuana market.

The state broadly legalized recreational marijuana sales in January 2018 but the illicit market is thriving — in part because hefty legal marijuana taxes send consumers looking for better deals in the illegal economy.

Before dawn Monday, Riverside County sheriff’s deputies responded to a report of an assault with a deadly weapon at an Aguanga home. They found a woman suffering from gunshot wounds who later died at a hospital, according to a sheriff’s department statement.

The deputies also discovered six more dead people at the house that “was being used to manufacture and harvest an illicit marijuana operation,” the statement said.

Investigators seized more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana and several hundred marijuana plants.

While officials said they did not immediately find any suspects, the sheriff’s statement called the deaths “an isolated incident” that did not threaten people in Aguanga, population about 2,000.

“The area is safe and we don’t have any other concerns,” sheriff’s Sgt. Deanna Pecoraro said.

Partially eaten pizza sat in boxes on the ground in a circular dirt driveway of the dilapidated two-bedroom house where the shootings occurred. Three cars with California or Nevada license plates were parked outside, including a Toyota Sequoia with its front doors open.

Cases of bottled water were stacked on the front porch, and clothing and plastic bags were strewn about. A black tarp was stretched atop poles in the fenced backyard, indicating a small growing operation.

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