Calif. man killed, 2 flee in pot farm raid

100 officers search for pair in hills south of Saratoga

By Steve Rubenstein
The San Francisco Chronicle

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — One armed man was shot and killed and two others escaped on foot into the brush during a raid early Thursday on a marijuana patch in the hills south of Saratoga, a Santa Clara County sheriff's lieutenant said.

The shooting happened when five deputies and 15 other officers confronted the men at the patch around 7:30 a.m., Lt. Ed Wise said.

It was not immediately known if the men fired at officers or how many shots were fired, or by whom, Wise said.

"The deputies started to enter a large marijuana garden and encountered three subjects armed with guns," Wise said. "During the encounter, shots were fired. One subject was shot and fatally wounded, and two others fled on foot."

Two deputies were placed on routine administrative leave as officials launched an investigation into the incident, said Lt. Dalia Rodriguez, Santa Clara sheriff's public information officer.

More than 100 law enforcement officers, including SWAT teams from several surrounding cities, were dispatched to search for the men.

At about 3 p.m., officers spotted two suspects running out of the dense brush at Peach Hill near Villa Montalvo, but the two men fled back into the dense woods after spotting officers.

Three canine units were deployed, including a bloodhound tracker as well as two helicopters.

The men were still at large Thursday evening.

The shooting took place near the intersection of Bohlman Road and Canon Drive, Wise said.

Deputies in full SWAT gear battled difficult terrain in extreme heat throughout the day searching for the suspects, Rodriguez said. It took responding officers 90 minutes to reach the site of the shooting and farm, where there were at least 10,000 pot plants growing, she added.

Deputies were assisted by SWAT team officers from the San Jose, Mountain View, Los Altos and Palo Alto police departments and the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office.

Local residents were urged to be careful while the suspects, described as armed and dangerous, remain at large. Police had only a vague description of them as Latinos in their early 20s. One man was wearing a blue shirt, blue pants and a red cap, and the other man wore a tan tank top.

The dead man was not immediately identified.

Rodriguez said crime scene investigators had not yet reached the site by late afternoon Thursday, and the coroner had not yet removed the body.

The raid was organized by the sheriff's marijuana eradication team, along with narcotics officers from the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting. That outfit, run by the state Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, is a task force of local, state and federal agencies that focuses on eradicating marijuana growing and trafficking in California.
Two SWAT team members are lifted by a helicopter out of a canyon where about 10,000 marijuana plants were reported growing.

Copyright 2008 The San Francisco Chronicle

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