An attempted marijuana theft gone horribly wrong has left three people dead and two Northern California growers facing serious jail time.
Two growers, who are also brothers from the small town of Rail Road Flat in Calaveras County, have been arrested following a fatal shooting near their grow site early Tuesday morning that left three unarmed would-be burglars dead.
Trouble started when property owner Leon Michael Grammer, 38, spotted at least three men trespassing on his land and taking marijuana from his garden around daybreak Tuesday morning. Grammer proceeded to call his 30-year-old brother, Jeremiah Lee Barrett, who lived nearby and asked him to come over ASAP. After the call Grammer grabbed a gun and discharged several rounds in the direction of the trespassers, not striking any but doing the job of scaring them off.
That should have been the end of it, however on Barrett’s way to his brother’s property he happened to come upon the small band of trespassers, who were allegedly running on the side of the rural dirt road with marijuana tucked under their arms and inside their jackets. After a short confrontation, Barrett unloaded his shotgun on the group of thieves, killing all three unarmed men instantly.
When sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene at about 9:30 am after receiving reports of gunfire, they found the three gunshot victims dead on the side of the road.
The three men have been identified as Wesley David Smith, 55, of Snelling; Robert Daniel Haney, 60, of Modesto, and Terry Glen Looney Jr., 44, of Waterford.
Sgt. Anthony Eberhardt, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, said the investigation is continuing. He said investigators are trying to determine if the trespassers had other accomplices.
“The Sheriff’s Office is still canvassing the area and taking statements, so all of those avenues are being looked at,” Eberhardt said.
Barrett was arrested on suspicion of murder and conspiracy, the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office said. He is being held at the Calaveras County Jail on $2.5 million bail.
Grammer was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy and acting as an accessory after the fact. He was released Wednesday after posting $30,000 bail.
Eberhardt said Grammer could face additional charges, which could include assault with a deadly weapon.
“With the evidence we’re seeing and the statements we have, conspiracy and accessory is all we can charge him with at this time,” Eberhardt said. “That doesn’t mean additional charges might not follow, but that’s all we have right now.”
This is not the first time marijuana cultivation has led to deadly violence in the Mother Lode region. He Ting Fu, 45, was found dead and clutching an empty shotgun following a shooting during an attempted robbery at a marijuana farm in Amador County in 2011. Five men from the Sacramento area are currently serving time in California prisons in connection with that case.