MADERA COUNTY – An early morning raid on a marijuana grow just 75 yards from an elementary school yielded about 400 fully budded marijuana plants in four separate gardens, ready for harvest.
The eradication mission was set in motion at about 7 p.m. last night when a marijuana plant was found on the grounds of Coarsegold Elementary School, according to the Madera County Sheriff’s Office.
Madera County Narcotic Enforcement Team (MADNET) received word about the discovery and quickly secured a search warrant on the nearby property. They then held a briefing with both Sheriff Anderson and Coarsegold Elementary School Principal Bob Rose.
A 12-man team was assigned to the incident last night, most of them from Madera Regional Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team.
Principal Rose was prepared to put his school on lockdown if the mission could not be accomplished before students were scheduled to arrive on campus this morning.
“The safety and welfare of the children, faculty, and staff at the school was vital,” says Erica Stuart, spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office. With the sense that time was of the essence, the team prepared for an early morning mission.
When agents and SWAT arrived at dawn at the undisclosed location, they had no idea how many people were on the property, if there were children or dogs, or if any of those at the scene might be armed.
As the team arrived, they saw two men fleeing the marijuana grow and heading into dense brush. Agents were then charged by a pit bull, according to the Sheriff’s Office, and for their own safety, had no choice but to shoot the dog.
The foot chase for the pair who had fled the scene finally ended when they were apprehended on school grounds, says Stuart.
Deputies removed both men from the campus and hustled them back to the location of the raid, which had by then been secured by additional officers on scene.
“No one was injured, “says Sheriff Anderson, “and because of their swift timing, agents were able to complete this delicate mission before the first bus arrived at the school. Therefore no lockdown was needed.”
Two children found living in complete squalor inside a house on the property were placed in the care of Child Protective Services for their safety and welfare, says Stuart.
As many as five adults occupied the residence and were reportedly sharing rooms in the house, as well occupying make-shift camps scattered throughout the 5-acre lot.
Four separate gardens were located, all of them within 75 yards of the elementary school.
In light of the close proximity of Thursday’s marijuana eradication mission, Principal Rose stated that a counselor is available to students in the event that they may have any questions, and to assure them that they are safe at school.
The Sheriff’s Office is not releasing any further information about the mission or the suspects at this time, due to the nature of the investigation, which is ongoing.