A dispute at a cannabis farm run by a local Rastafarian church in California’s Yuba County escalated to a shootout on Tuesday, leaving one suspect dead and two sheriff’s deputies wounded.
The outburst of violence brought dozens of law enforcement officers from across the region, the Sacramento Bee reported. It apparently began when police responded to reports of a trimmer at the farm uprooting and damaging plants after an argument with his employers.
Sugarleaf Rastafarian Church leader Heidi Grossman-Lepp said she called 911 after a newly arrived worker at the farm in the unincorporated community of Oregon House became erratic, ripping up plants while brandishing a gun. Her attorney, Joseph Tully described the worker as a “trimmigrant”—the unflattering nickname for seasonal workers who trim the buds of newly harvested cannabis.
According to the Bee, the man was working in exchange for room and board and “nominal wages.” The wounded deputies were airlifted to the hospital., local KCRA reports. It was confirmed that the slain man was the employee. But his identity has apparently still not been determined.
Tully said the Rasta church had built trust with local law enforcement.
“They had no problem calling the authorities, because they were having a problem there,” he said. “They have a very open-door relationship.”
That’s a good sign, but the incident is sure to raise further concerns about working conditions and use of off-the-books labor in California’s burgeoning cannabis industry.