Monday, 24 June 2024

Deputies find large pot garden, encounter armed suspects



LAKE COUNTY – On Tuesday local and federal law enforcement officials eradicated a massive illegal marijuana garden in the Mendocino National Forest, encountering armed suspects in the process.

The Lake County Sheriff's SWAT Team and detectives from the US Forest Service seized approximately 130,000 plants and five firearms – including a Tec 9 assault weapon with a makeshift silencer – according to sheriff's Capt. Rob Howe.

Howe said the raid took place at 7 a.m. Tuesday in the Lower Nye/Copper Butte area of the National Forest in Lake County.

Law enforcement personnel surrounded a tent located in the garden and began giving verbal commands, directing any occupants to exit the tent, Howe said.

Three suspects, identified as Hispanic male adults, immediately opened the tent and fled downhill, while one suspect, also described as a Hispanic male adult, remained in the tent and was taken into custody, according to Howe's report.

Deputies and agents found a 9 millimeter semi automatic handgun in a tent, Howe said.

At about 9:30 a.m., as they were walking the suspect out, Howe said detectives encountered two more suspects, described as Hispanic male adults, actively working in the garden, with one of the men holding a gun in his hand.

Howe said that as detectives approached the suspects the one holding the gun dropped it. Both then fled and the team wasn't able to capture them.

While it's early in the marijuana eradication season, Howe said this is the third marijuana cultivation operation so far this year in which sheriff's deputies have encountered armed suspects.

Howe noted, “We are very grateful these suspects have not pointed their weapons or fired at our personnel.”

Concerns over dangers about illegal marijuana growing operations on public and private lands led Sheriff Rod Mitchell to post a public safety message late last week on his Web site. The video presentation can be found in its entirety here: .

The video explains that violence in connection with marijuana growing is increasing.

Last September, the county saw the first murder associated with a growing operation. In that case, the body of a Santa Rosa man was found in an illegal grow on Socrates Mine Road, where he had been shot to death, as Lake County News has reported.

The sheriff's office reported that 2009 is “already surpassing last year in seizures and violence.”

While eradicating a grow on Socrates Mine Road in June, deputies encountered two armed suspects who fled and evaded capture, according to the report.

In addition to locating firearms and armed growers, deputies have discovered booby traps, such as a rat trip outfitted with a shotgun shell, which they recreated and shot through a human-shaped target.

They've also found rat and mouse poison, litter and other environmental concerns in the grows.

Nearly all of the illegal grows are discovered and eradicated through the use of helicopters, which the county rents from private companies and pays for through a $275,000 Drug Enforcement Administration Grant.

Tuesday's raid brings this year's total for eradications to more than 285,000 plants and 15 arrests, based on various sheriff's reports.

That puts Lake County – which in recent years has led all of California's 58 counties in eradications of illegal marijuana – close to Mendocino County, which so far this year has netted close to 280,000 plants, made close to 60 arrests and seized around 50 firearms at more than 90 sites.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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