Seven Dead in Illegal Aguanga Marijuana Processing Operation

Over 20 people lived on a property in rural southern California in the town of Aguanga, and were involved in an illegal marijuana operation. The residents of the property lived in makeshift dwellings and had a nursery. According to Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco, marijuana was processed into a very strong concentrate on the property. A shootout there over the Labor Day holiday ended with seven people dead.


The Riverside County sheriff’s deputies received a call about an assault with a deadly weapon in an Aguanga home. When the authorities arrived on the scene, they found six dead bodies and one woman whom they transported to the hospital where she later died. Every one of the victims was identified as being a Laotian. Sheriff Bianco said that the operation was not small, and it could have been linked to organized crime. 


The town of Aguanga, located north of San Diego, is very small with only about 2,000 residents. Despite the state of California legalizing recreational marijuana in 2018, consumers have a desire to pinch pennies and avoid the pricey taxes associated with legal marijuana. In doing so, they still turn to the illegal market. However, this shooting incident and the massive amount of dead bodies that it left behind is evidence that there is violence in California in relation to the illegal manufacturing of marijuana.


Authorities seized over 1,000 pounds of marijuana along with hundreds of marijuana plants. No suspects were named and no arrests were made. The Aguanga sheriff’s department told residents that it was an isolated incident and not a threat to the community. Ronald McKay, the owner of the property, said that he was unaware that there was any shooting event that took place at his rentals, mobile home, and house. According to McKay, he attempted to check the well on the property on Monday but a deputy would not let him enter or tell him what happened. He also said he never heard the word of the incident from authorities even though he gave them his phone number. McKay said that the property is managed by an employee so he did not know the individuals who lived there, but he never knew of any incidents to date.


Aguanga’s vast open land has vineyards and horse ranches scattered about. Some southern California residents enjoy weekend getaways to the small town. However, the area is rife with illegal marijuana processing operations. In February there were close to 10,000 plants seized and 411 pounds of marijuana along with firearms taken from the town by deputies. Four arrests were made. One local real estate broker says that some of his clients are pot growers and they live in his gated community.


Because the area is so isolated, it is a prime spot for illegal marijuana activities. Adam Spiker, who is the executive director of the Southern California Coalition says the illegal market for marijuana manufacturing is not well checked.

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