Merced County Pot Bust and Shooting

September 19, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Merced County Sheriff's Deputies shot an armed man at the site of a large marijuana growing site on Friday.The garden was located in the middle of an almond orchard southwest of Livingston. Deputies raided the site Thursday uprooting five thousand marijuana plants. Sheriff's Department photos show a campsite where the workers who tended the crop stayed.

Three deputies were still at the site early Friday morning when one of the workers who apparently didn't know about the bust returned. Deputies say he was carrying a gun. At News Conference on Friday, Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin Merced described the encounter.

"The officers feared for their lives and they didn't wait for him to shoot they shot first."

The Sheriff says the suspect was shot seven times. He was airlifted to a Modesto hospital. Pazin says this is an example of why marijuana growing is a serious problem, say, "These drug traffickers are protecting their illegal crop with armed individuals."

In addition to violence marijuana gardens cause environmental and other problems. A recent forest fire near North Fork started in a marijuana plot. Its big business the haul at the site near Livingston is estimated to be worth nearly four million dollars.

The wounded man and two other suspects are in custody but there may be more arrests. The sheriff says he's trying to find out if the property owner was aware of the pot garden.

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