The victims lived on the property, where workers were making extracts with the harvested cannabis, along with about a dozen others, according to Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco. All victims and witnesses were of Laotian origin; no minors were present.
California is home to the largest weed black markets
The rise and fall of MedMen shows that the cannabis industry is full of lessons. But is anyone actually learning?
All of the bodies were discovered in the vicinity of the same outbuilding on the property. Six of the victims were already dead when they were discovered, and a seventh woman who suffered gunshot wounds died in hospital.
“This is not going to be an easy investigation,” Bianco told reporters. “It was an obvious illegal marijuana processing center. This was not just a ‘they happen to be growing marijuana’. This was a major organized-crime-type operation.”
In the wee hours of Monday morning, police responded to a 911 call reporting an assault with a deadly weapon at the Aguanga farm, where officers seized hundreds of cannabis plants and over 1,000 pounds of cannabis products with a value of $1 to $5 million, per authorities.
No arrests have been made in connection with the killings, and the victims have not been publicly identified. In a statement, the sheriff referred to the killings as “an isolated incident,” claiming there was no threat to local Aguanga residents.
Nonetheless, the sheriff asserts, illegal cannabis poses a danger to local residents.
“Marijuana is not a victimless crime,” Bianco said. “Can you imagine if this had happened in a populated city where children were next door?”
While the tiny Aguanga area has become somewhat of a weekend getaway destination for residents of Southern California thanks to its many stables and vineyards, the region is also rife with illegal cannabis cultivation due to its rural, isolated location.
This year, there have been eight incidents involving homicides at illicit cannabis cultivation operations within Bianco’s jurisdiction.
He said so far in 2020 there have been eight incidents resulting in homicides at indoor and outdoor cannabis cultivation sites within the sheriff’s jurisdiction.
“That’s why we are enforcing warrants at these illegal marijuana grows,” the sheriff said. “We are not going to slow down.”