MENDOCINO COUNTY, Calif. - A 22-year old Atascadero man is one of six men arrested by authorities in Mendocino County for operating an illegal marijuana grow near the town of Covelo.
Ruben Hernandez Najera is charged with two misdemeanors for his alleged role in the drug operation.
On Monday, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Dispatch received four 911 emergency calls about a possible shootout with up to 200 shots being fired near the area of Crawford Road and Bigger Lane. The callers described the shots as semi-automatic and fully automatic gunfire.
Officers from the Round Valley Indian Reservation Tribal Police arrived on scene first and spotted a man with a rifle trying run from the scene. They took two people into custody, one was armed. Sheriff's deputies and CHP officers also arrived on scene and discovered a very large marijuana operation on 10 acres held in trust by the Federal Government as part of the reservation system.
Authorities also discovered 38 "hoop houses" which are green houses used to cultivate marijuana as well as several camp sites with recreational vehicles and tents used by those cultivating marijuana. Officers found more than 12,000 marijuana plants and four more Hispanic men.
Investigators obtained a search warrant and discovered another 3 rifles and 4 handguns, including 2 AR15 style assault rifles with high capacity magazines, one with a suppressor attached.
Despite evidence of a large shootout, investigators said the suspects denied any knowledge or involvement in the gunfire which happened about 200 yards from a populated residential area and a busy road. Authorities also said there is no evidence that anyone was shot even though they found one greenhouse and a vehicle riddled with bullet holes.
The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office said it's seeing a pattern of Federal Trust Properties being leased by tribal members to non-tribal members for the sole purpose of conducting large marijuana growing operations.
Hernandez Najera is charged with cultivating marijuana and possessing marijuana for sale, both are misdemeanors. He was released on zero bond.
The other five men arrested include Rosalio Pena (AKA Armas Severiano), 50, Transient Covelo CA
Osvaldo Garcia Campos, 40, Transient Covelo CA
Angel Maria Ramirez, 48, Sacramento CA
Foley Azbill, 41, Covelo CA
Britton Leonard Azbill Jr., 38, Covelo CA