Mystery surrounds fatal shooting of 7 people at Riverside County marijuana grow house

Food containers litter the property where seven people were killed at an illegal marijuana grow house in Riverside County.
Food containers litter the property where seven people were shot to death over Labor Day weekend at an illegal marijuana grow house in the unincorporated area of Aguanga in Riverside County.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Authorities investigating the shooting deaths of seven people at a marijuana growing facility in a remote corner of Riverside County say they think the crime may have been carried out by multiple assailants.

Few details are known about the mass killing, and detectives are still in the early stages of figuring out what happened.

“This is not going to be an easy investigation,” Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said Tuesday.

Here is what we know from Times reporting:

Riverside County sheriff’s deputies found several hundred plants and more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana at the Inland Empire home.

Where did the killings occur?

The dead were found on a property in Aguanga, a remote hamlet 100 miles east of Los Angeles.

When sheriff’s deputies arrived Monday, it became clear the property was an “obvious large-scale illegal marijuana processing center,” Bianco said. There were hundreds of plants, a makeshift greenhouse, a lab for using butane to extract valuable THC from pot plants and more than 1,000 pounds of processed marijuana with a street value in the millions, the sheriff said.


He said the sprawling operation had been overseen by sophisticated criminals.

“This was not that they just happened to be growing marijuana,” he said. “This was a very large operation, a very organized-crime type of an operation.”

What do we know about the victims?

Deputies, who were called to the house on reports of an assault shortly after midnight Monday, found six people dead from gunshots. A seventh victim — a woman — was alive but died shortly afterward at a hospital.

Authorities did not identify any of the victims Tuesday.

Mark Jones, 69, who lives nearby, told the Press-Enterprise that he heard “three separate volleys of gunshots.”

Soon after, he said firetrucks and emergency vehicles arrived.

What did the compound look like?

Trash littered the grounds Tuesday. Women’s clothing and soda bottles were strewn across the trailer’s front porch. A pickup was parked out front, its doors flung open to show clothing draped on the seats and an envelope on the floor marked "$8,300.”

Behind the trailer was a greenhouse, its cover torn open. Grow plugs, used to sprout marijuana seedlings, were scattered on the ground. Six metal folding chairs had been arrayed in a row; a seventh was nearby, empty pizza boxes and water bottles stacked atop it.

Taped to the home’s front door was a handwritten note that read in English, “Welcome to our home, please take your shoe off before enter the house,” and a similar message beneath it in Lao, the primary language spoken in Laos.

All of the witnesses interviewed at the scene were Laotian, Bianco said.