Men tending a marijuana crop in north Morgan Hill were robbed at gunpoint and two were tied up, leading authorities to eradicate the apparently illegal garden Thursday morning.
The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s office is still looking for the robbery suspects, and at the same time trying to determine if the three victims were properly permitted to grow the approximately 120 plants for medical use, sheriff’s Sgt. Jose Cardoza said.
The male victims, who lived on the property, told authorities about 7:15 a.m. Thursday that four to six Hispanic men – between the ages of 22 and 45 – in dark clothing entered the backyard of the property on the 10700 block of Hale Avenue near the intersection of Live Oak Avenue in unincorporated Morgan Hill. The suspects were extracting some of the bushy, sticky, smelly marijuana plants from the garden, which sits toward the back of the property and is surrounded by an 8-foot-high fence made of plywood.
Neighbors did not answer their doors Thursday afternoon.
When two of the victims approached the suspects, the suspects brandished handguns, and then tied up the two men, Cardoza said. A third man, an associate of the two tied-up victims, then arrived at the property, causing the suspects to flee southbound on Hale Avenue toward the city limits.
None of the victims suffered injuries, Cardoza said. The victims called 911 to report the robbery.
The suspects were driving three separate vehicles – a 2000s light colored Toyota Sequoia, a 2000s brown Chevrolet Suburban and a black Volvo sedan with tinted windows and black rims, Cardoza said.
A home on the front of the property, close to Hale Avenue, was not associated with the marijuana operation or the robbery, according to sheriff’s Sgt. Ryan Elder, a detective who was at the scene Thursday afternoon. The victims lived on the property, but not in the home and it was unclear at press time what type of structure or dwelling they resided in, and on what part of the narrow property which stretches several hundred yards back from Hale Avenue in a rectangular shape.
Behind the home were several vehicles parked at different angles, a shed or garage unattached to the home, and numerous pieces of farm machinery, equipment and parts. A gravel driveway winds from Hale Avenue to the back of the property, where a sheriff’s deputy blocked off the outdoor, uncovered marijuana garden. At least three large dogs were roaming the property, with another tied on a leash to a tree.
The victims were no longer at the scene by Thursday afternoon.
Authorities from the sheriff’s marijuana eradication team were on hand removing the plants and loading them onto a trailer that was hooked up to a Ford pickup. That vehicle was parked on the adjacent property, which contained an empty field. The two properties are separated by a chainlink fence, and one side of the plywood fence enclosing the pot garden was against the chainlink divider. Deputies were loading the uprooted plants from the garden over the chainlink fence into the trailer.
The sheriff’s office is treating the incident as a kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon, according to a press release issued by Cardoza.
At press time authorities were still attempting to determine if the victims had a medical license or permit to grow the marijuana. However, Cardoza said it was “probably” determined to be illegitimate if authorities were confiscating the plants.
State law allows medical card holders to cultivate six plants for personal use and for permitted patients, though local jurisdictions can set higher limits, according to the California NORML website.
The plants on the Hale Avenue property were likely mature and ready to be harvested.
“We’re at the end of the marijuana season,” Cardoza said.