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Kern County marijuana raid starts with video from the sky

FruityBud

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Kern County law enforcement officers are making one raid after another at marijuana grows, and many start with surveillance from the air. Officers say they increasingly find these marijuana plots closer to neighborhoods, and a raid Tuesday morning is an example of that.

Nearly 500 plants were seized, along with two guard dogs and even a horse. Five people were detained for questioning. Officers raided the two large plots just off the dirt extension of East Texas Street between Sterling Road and Fairfax Road.

Kern County deputies say the grow site east of Bakersfield is similar to others they've investigated this year, but there are some differences.

The six gardens were first located from the sheriff's helicopter on August 15. Aerial video provided by the sheriff's department shows the fly-over with a good view of the various sections and plants of various sizes.

Sr. Deputy Ryan Dunbier said while the plots were easily visible from the helicopter, they weren't all that hidden from the ground. It's more like hidden in plain sight.

"We're seeing (marijuana growing) very much moved into the metro areas versus hiding in the forested areas," Dunbier said. "The attempts to hide it are not as prevalent as we used to see."

In this case, the large grow areas were surrounded by plywood or metal sheet walls, and that's been common in the gardens recently raided.

Dunbier said a total of 476 plants were seized, and they'll be buried at a safe location to be destroyed. That's the usual procedure.

But, some of the marijuana plants had already been harvested from the plots. Sr. Deputy Dunbier said officers believed they'd been pulled out just before they got to the site.

Once on the ground Tuesday morning, officers also found a lean-to where the growers had supplies like water. And at that lean-to, there was marijuana hung up to dry, apparently to get it ready for sale.

That's the concern officers have about the marijuana grows right now. It's harvest season, and soon a lot of marijuana will hit the streets. At Tuesday's raid officers found a 38-caliber revolver, so these growers were apparently ready to protect the valuable crop.

Officers also found two dogs. Dunbier described them as guard dogs. "They appeared to be not friendly," the officer commented.

And a horse was seized. Officers said the animal looked under-nourished. They're not sure how, or if, the horse was connected to the marijuana growing. Kern County animal control was called out for both the horse and the dogs.

Also at the location east of Bakersfield, officers found doctors' recommendations for medical marijuana. Sr. Deputy Dunbier said it's not clear yet how many recommendations there were, or how many plants are listed on them.

In several other recent cases, doctors' recommendations have been found, but the the number of plants still exceeded the total.

In response to the new trends in these marijuana grows, Kern County supervisors passed new county rules on August 8 that include a ban on growing any more than 12 medical marijuana plants on a parcel of land.

Officers said they were questioning the five men from the site at East Texas Street, hoping to find out more about that operation.

Meanwhile, Eyewitness News learned officers were at another marijuana grow about two miles south later in the afternoon. As they approached, two suspects were seen running from that location.

One suspect was taken into custody, but the other was still outstanding, according to early word from sheriff officials.

The marijuana grow on East Texas was similar in many ways to other recent cases, but officers say the growers seemed more determined to stick it out.

"Both grows were fortified with locks and keys from the inside," Sr. Deputy Ryan Dunbier explained. "At both of the grows the individuals had locked themselves inside the fortified fencing."

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