Detectives on Tuesday investigated the Labor Day killings of seven people at an illegal marijuana growing operation in Aguanga, a rural Southern California community.
California broadly legalized recreational marijuana sales in January 2018 but the black market is thriving, in part because hefty legal marijuana taxes send consumers looking for better deals elsewhere.
Before dawn on 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 discovered six more dead people at the location that was being used to harvest and manufacture marijuana, the statement said.
Investigators seized more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana and several hundred marijuana plants.
While officials said their search did not immediately locate any suspects, the sheriff’s statement called the deaths “an isolated incident” that did not threaten residents of Aguanga.
The sheriff’s department declined Tuesday morning to disclose additional details about the case but officials planned to hold a news conference in the afternoon.
Riverside Sgt. Deanna Pecoraro said “the area is safe and we don’t have any other concerns.”
Aguanga, population about 2,000, has gained some traction as a weekend getaway for Southern California residents. It’s near the small city of Temecula, a bedroom community for San Diego and Los Angeles.
Sheriff’s deputies in February seized more than 9,900 plants and collected 411 pounds of processed marijuana and firearms from suspected illegal marijuana sites in the Aguanga area. Four people were arrested.
The law enforcement seizures of the area’s illegal growing operations have spawned nicknames for the raids like “Marijuana Mondays,” “Weed Wednesdays” and “THC Thursdays,” according to Mike Reed, a real estate broker and 28-year Agangua resident.
Residents move to Agangua for “peace and solitude,” Reed said.
“People live here because it’s not in the city,” Reed said.
But Aguanga’s isolation may have helped make it prone to illegal marijuana sales and cultivation.
Large cannabis growing operations typically have hundreds of thousands of dollars of product at each site, making them attractive targets for criminals.
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