SAMS VALLEY — Jackson County sheriff's deputies on Wednesday shot and killed an armed man guarding a marijuana garden deep in the woods north of Sams Valley.
The sheriff's SWAT team was searching for the garden on Bureau of Land Management property at around 7 a.m. when they encountered a man armed with a loaded shotgun, law enforcement authorities said.
Two deputies fired at the man, who is described as a Hispanic adult, according to Oregon State Police.
A SWAT medic performed emergency aid on the man but he died at the scene, OSP said.
After the shooting, deputies spotted a second man fleeing the area. He disappeared in the woods. It is not known if he was armed, OSP said.
The sheriff's office immediately turned the investigation over to Oregon State Police detectives. Oregon law mandates police agencies not investigate their own officer-involved shootings.
OSP will release the involved deputies' names at a later date. The deceased man's information will be released once he has been positively identified by the medical examiner and attempts to locate next of kin have been completed.
Once the investigation is completed, the results will be turned over to the Jackson County District Attorney's Office to determine if the shooting was justified, OSP said.
The SWAT team believes the marijuana garden belongs to a Mexican drug cartel, OSP said.
Cartels are large-scale criminal organizations based in Mexico that deal in weapons and drugs.
The forests in Northern California and Southern Oregon are popular with the cartels for their marijuana operations.
The 2010 National Drug Threat Assessment released earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Justice's National Drug Intelligence Center reported that the number of plants removed from public lands soared more than 300 percent from 2004 to 2008, primarily at pot gardens of Mexican drug-trafficking organizations. The cartels favor public land because its remoteness can limit detection and it can't be seized or traced back to an owner the way private property can, the report said.
The shooting occurred just days after Southern Oregon sheriff's departments gave U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., a helicopter tour of the area's vasts forests. The trip, documented in Sunday's Mail Tribune, showed hundreds of illegal marijuana gardens sprinkled throughout Southern Oregon.
The sheriff's agencies are asking the federal government for additional funds to eradicate illegal marijuana farms.
Sheriff's deputies in Lake County, Calif., shot and killed a man last week who was guarding a marijuana garden, according to The Associated Press.
The sheriff's department found a weapon cache and a 10,000-plant garden near where the man was shot. He later was identified as 51-year-old Juan Sanchez Corona.
By Chris Conrad
August 12, 2010
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