During a news briefing Tuesday evening, Bianco said sheriff’s investigators along with federal law enforcement were still processing the shooting scene at a large-scale illegal marijuana growing operation in the unincorporated community of Aguanga, 18 miles east of Temecula.
Deputies first responded to the scene at 12:33 a.m. Monday after receiving a 911 report of an assault with a deadly weapon at a residence in the 45000 block of state Route 371. Deputies found six people dead and a woman suffering from multiple gunshot wounds who later died at a hospital, Bianco said.
All of the victims were Laotian, the sheriff said, but their identities were not yet released.
All the bodies were discovered near one dwelling on the property. Approximately 20 people were living at the site in various buildings, and all were involved in the marijuana operation, according to Bianco.
There were no minors on the property.
Over 1,000 pounds of processed marijuana was found at the site, along with several hundred marijuana plants, and a butane honey-oil laboratory. In total, the cannabis products had a street value of $1 million to $5 million, according to the sheriff.
Investigators were still trying to confirm who owns the property. Several vehicles found at the site were registered out of state, Bianco said.
“It was an obvious illegal marijuana processing center,” Bianco said. “Not a small operation, but a major organized crime type operation.”
The exact motive for the killings was unclear.
The Anza Valley east of Temecula and south of Hemet has been the focus of prior sheriff’s raids to take down illegal outdoor grows. It was unknown how long this one had been active.
“Marijuana is not a victimless crime,” Bianco said. “Can you imagine if this had happened in a populated city where children were next door?”
He said so far in 2020 there have been eight incidents resulting in homicides at indoor and outdoor cannabis cultivation sites within the sheriff’s jurisdiction.
“That’s why we are enforcing warrants at these illegal marijuana grows,” Bianco said. “We are not going to slow down.”
Bianco said there does not appear to be a “threat to the general public” in connection with the killings.
Anyone with information about the shootings was asked to call 951-955-2777.
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