Man Killed in Mendocino Pot Garden Raid

A Mendocino County sheriff’s officer shot and killed a man who leveled a rifle at him in a large, remote marijuana garden early Tuesday morning, law officials said.

The shooting occurred at about 6:45 a.m. on U.S. Forest Service land in northeastern Mendocino County, roughly four miles west of the Tehama County line, said Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman.

The name of the veteran officer who fired is not being released at this time, and the suspect’s identity is unknown, he said.

Three Mendocino County officers, five Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management officers and a dog were investigating the garden, Allman said.

They were entering one of several large marijuana gardens in the area when they encountered two men. One leveled his rifle and was shot.

Both men ran, but the injured man was tackled by the dog after about 30 yards, Allman said.

The suspect was given first aid but died a few minutes later. The second suspect escaped.

The dead man, who appeared to be in his 20s, carried no identification, Allman said.

The officer who shot him also was involved in a shooting in about 1989. He has been with the Sheriff’s Office for 25 years. Allman declined to give details of the prior shooting, saying it would identify the officer. He has been placed on administrative leave as is protocol following a shooting.

The District Attorney’s Office and the state Department of Justice are assisting with the investigation, Allman said.

It’s the first known lethal confrontation involving an officer in a Mendocino County pot garden, but they’ve occurred elsewhere in the state:

Deputies fatally shot a suspect in Santa Clara County last week.

Napa County drug agents earlier this month shot and killed a suspect who drew a weapon near Lake Berryessa.

Two officers were wounded and a suspect killed during a pot raid in Lassen County last year.

In 2007, officers in Humboldt County fatally shot a man who confronted them with a shotgun.

In 2003, two suspects were fatally shot by law enforcement in a Shasta County pot garden.

Less lethal incidents are more common.

Last month, the back window of a Sheriff’s Office vehicle was shattered by gunfire as officers left a marijuana garden raid in Western Mendocino County.

Also last month, drug officials in Lake County crossed paths with an armed marijuana gardener, but he fled.

Last year a sheriff’s canine was injured while struggling with a suspect who pointed a rifle at law enforcement officers in the same area as Tuesday’s fatal shooting. Also last year, armed pot growers in Shasta County created a panic when they fled police, running through the yards of neighbors, some of whom took up arms for protection.

While officer-involved pot-garden shootings are sporadic, Allman said there’s evidence that illegal pot garden tenders are more willing to use violence to protect their crops.

In 2009, officers seized 165 firearms from indoor and outdoor marijuana gardens in Mendocino County, he said.

State officials blame Mexican cartels for much of the cultivation on public lands.

Allman said his office is working with the Forest Service to make the northeastern corner of the county near Round Valley safer and to eradicate large marijuana gardens.

“From what I’ve heard, the number of grows in that area is unlike any year we’ve seen,” Allman said.

He did not yet have a plant count but said “several thousand” plants were growing in the garden where the shooting took place.

Marijuana eradication in Mendocino County this year already has exceeded last year’s effort.

State officers have seized 471,995 plants in Mendocino County so far, exceeding last year’s total take by about 30,000, said Michelle Gregory, spokeswoman for the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting.

Those figures do not include plants seized by local law officials working without CAMP (Campaign Against Marijuana Planting) involvement, which typically assists local law enforcement with eradication operations for several months of the outdoor pot growing season.

Statewide, CAMP has seized 1.9 million plants, compared with 4.4 million in all of last year, Gregory said.

– Article from The Press Democrat.