The deputy did not see the suspect or hear any gunfire while rescuing the two officers, according to authorities. SWAT team members who later entered the house found the suspect dead, likely from the deputies’ return gunfire. It is also possible his wounds were self-inflicted, according to Yuba County Sheriff Steve Durfor.
The two wounded deputies are expected to survive.
“They went up there. They did their job, and they took care of business,” Durfor said, according to the Sacramento Bee.
The suspect had been working for a month at the farm of Sugarleaf Rastafarian Church, located approximately 55 miles north of Sacramento.
Heidi Lepp: Our church members “use cannabis as our sacrament.”
Yuba County Sheriff Steve L. Durfor told reporters at a news conference Tuesday afternoon that two deputies responded to a report of a dispute involving someone destroying marijuana plants at a local growing operation.
The man had been staying either on the church property or nearby and was tending the marijuana in exchange for room and board and nominal wages.described as a “trimmigrant,” the nickname for the seasonal workers who travel from grow to grow during the marijuana-harvest season.
The 911 caller, a female: “She told [deputies] to be careful; he was acting violently and had a gun,” police said.
Heidi Lepp, the church’s leader, said she received a call saying the man, who she knew only as “Sawyer,” was ripping up plants and wielding a gun. She alerted authorities.
Armed Deputies and SWAT Team members search for a suspect at the Sacramento based Rastafarian church’s marijuana farm on Tuesday
When the deputies arrived, the man fled up a hill toward homes on the property. A woman gave the deputies permission to enter her home, and the man fired on the deputies when they entered. The deputies returned fire.
The third deputy, who was at the backdoor, then ran inside to get his colleagues.
The wounded deputies, veterans of 14 and 10 years, were airlifted to a hospital and arrived “conscious, talkative and stable,” according to Durfor. Both were expected to recover after undergoing surgery.
The property is owned by a branch of Lepp’s church, she said, and does not have a permit to grow medicinal marijuana in Yuba County. However, her lawyer Joseph Tully said they have a good relationship with law enforcement.
“They had no problem calling the authorities, because they were having a problem there,” Tully told the Sacramento Bee. “They have a very open-door relationship.”
SWAT team found the suspect dead, once they entered the house
Lepp told KCRA that church members “use cannabis as our sacrament.”
“Wherever we walk, wherever we are, just like Jesus Christ, it’s a flesh and blood living church,” she told the station. “We do have structures where we do go worship.”
However, neighbors told KCRA that they have not heard of the Sugarleaf church.
“I’m not sure it’s called a church,” Brenda Behrend told the station. “I think it’s pot growers are having a excuse to have their pot plants.”
Authorities said they were investigating the dead suspect’s identity and any relationship to the property where the shooting occurred. He was described as Hispanic, likely in his early 30s, with a large stature