Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Threat of violence grows as area marijuana gardens bloom

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

By Dave Moller
Senior Staff Writer

A growing number of violent or potentially violent incidents involving marijuana gardens are occurring in Nevada County and northeastern California.

In the latest incident, probable marijuana thieves posing as federal drug agents and heavily armed were scared off from a North San Juan residence Monday, according to the Sheriff's Office.

"They talked the cop lingo and had radios," said Sheriff Keith Royal. "They have tactical equipment, are heavily armed and they had the dress down to polished boots. They could be ex-military, ex-law enforcement or a paramilitary organization.

The fake DEA agents are a sign of an ever-increasing threat of a violent harvest for marijuana growers in the county.

The four men are most likely the same people that have hit a reported 10 marijuana gardens now in northeastern California this harvest season, said Royal.

Last week, Nevada County Sheriff's officers learned of the group at a meeting in Butte County, Royal said. They found out the men with the same mode of operation had already hit three gardens in Butte County, one in Chico, two in Sierra County, two more in Plumas County, and one in Yuba County.

With drawn weapons, the fake agents entered a property on Purdon Road near Murphy Road with a medical marijuana grow about 8:20 a.m. Monday, Royal said. They forced a resident on the ground and as they were zip-tying his hands, another resident ran inside the home and closed the door.

The thieves then took the tied-up man's wallet and fled, he said.

"We think they got spooked," he said, adding that the victims did not draw any weapons. The thieves left in a silver SUV with a wrap-around chrome guard on the front.

"If folks see something like this, back off and call us at 265-7880," Royal said.

On Oct. 1 this year, two men posing as FBI agents burst into a home on Banner Mountain just outside of Nevada City and stole about two to three and one-half pounds of marijuana from two men who had just trimmed plants and bagged it.

On Sept. 5, two people off Dog Bar Road were pistol-whipped by three people who suspected they had stolen their marijuana.

On Oct. 14, 2007, five people entered a home in the same area and beat eight people while demanding money and marijuana. A van at the scene had freshly cut marijuana in it when officers arrived.

Several days later, two burst into a Cedar Ridge home and beat two men with a crude mace made out of a baseball bat. They fled without any marijuana after one of the victims said he had a gun.

To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, contact or call 477-4237.

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