The mayors arrived in the dusty area east of Temecula half an hour after midnight. A caller has reported an assault.
They discover a horrific scene: Six people are shot dead. The seventh victim, a woman, was still alive, but died soon after in hospital.
Besides the bodies, investigators discovered what Riverside County Mayor Chad Bianco described as “a clear, widespread, illegal marijuana treatment center.” Al Sharif said there are hundreds of plants, a makeshift greenhouse, a lab using butane to extract valuable THC from potted plants, and more than 1,000 pounds of processed marijuana worth in the millions.
The authorities did not identify any of the victims on Tuesday. Bianco said his investigators are pursuing the theory that multiple attackers carried out the killings, and indicated in a press conference that the sprawling operation was overseen by sophisticated criminals.
He said, “It wasn’t because they were growing marijuana.” “This was a very large operation, a very organized crime type.”
California may have established a legal market for marijuana but the black market is still going strong; Farmers who illegally grow and harvest their crops can evade exorbitant licensing fees and other regulatory costs, reducing their overhead competition.
Law enforcement officials say violence is an ever-present threat with an illegal growth. Illegal crops bring massive amounts of cash to operators who are usually barred from using banks or relying on law enforcement for protection. The killings this week add to seven other killings linked to illegal marijuana operations that Riverside County investigators have investigated this year, Sharif said.
Bianco said at least 20 people used to live on the property in a small community of Aguanga on the edge of the Cleveland National Forest.