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DA's Office: Slaying Of Pot Farmer Justified

Rocky Balboa

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The manzanita bushes weren't thick enough to hide a pair of detectives from a gun-toting marijuana farmer standing above them on a fallen tree log in Lytle Creek, authorities said.

The man yelled, "Are you here for the marijuana?"

He then shouldered a shotgun and aimed it at the drug task force that planned on raiding the pot farm on Sept. 27, according to a district attorney's report released Thursday.

No charges will be filed against six members of a multi-agency team - comprised of sheriff's deputies from San Bernardino and Riverside counties, as well as the Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Land Management - who shot and killed the man.

The Spanish-speaking man clad in camouflage clothing was never identified.

Deputies from the Campaign Against Marijuana Production trekked a half mile to the marijuana farm near San Sevaine Ridge north of Fontana and south of the Lytle Creek Ranger Station.

They then broke into two teams and hid in the bushes to assess the situation.

Detectives Ernest Perez and Gary Wheeler were crouched in scrub oak and manzanita bushes about 7 a.m. when they pulled out their handguns because the man guarding the farm spotted them from 50 feet away.

The detectives became concerned when the man directed two other pot farmers to search the bushes for them, according to the report.

"This behavior was concerning because in most marijuana grows, the subjects either turn and run or give up," Wheeler told officials.

Perez fired once at the man on the tree log, striking him in the head.

The other two men continued to advance toward the drug task force. A brief gun battle ensued before the pot farmers retreated up the hill, according to the report.

A shotgun reportedly was found next to the dead man's body.

A pistol with worn green tape on the grip was found about 30 feet away. Authorities contend it was dropped by one of the other pot farmers.

The team searched for them for nearly an hour without success.

Nearly 3,000 marijuana plants worth an estimated $6 million to $9 million reportedly were found at the farm.

An autopsy revealed the slain man did not have drugs or alcohol in his system.

The shooting was justified because the man pointed a gun at officers, according to the report.

"When the primary suspect took a position of advantage and shouldered his weapon, the deadly force was imminent," prosecutor Joseph Gaetano wrote in the eight-page report.

"If (Perez) would have retreated backwards, there was no cover or concealment. Therefore, the suspect would have a clear shot at him."

Source: San Bernardino Sun
Author: Stacia Glenn, Staff Writer
Copyright: 2008 Los Angeles Newspaper Group
Website: San Bernardino County Sun - Home
 
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