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22,000 marijuana plants found on Round Valley Indian Reservation in Mendocino County

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Ten people were detained at a large illegal marijuana farm Tuesday morning at Mendocino County’s Round Valley Indian Reservation, where San Jose detectives sought clues about a missing man believed to have been working in the cannabis industry before his disappearance in April.

Authorities served a search warrant on the patch of rural land, located near Covelo on Rifle Range Road next to Mill Creek, at about 8:20 a.m., Mendocino County sheriff’s Lt. Shannon Barney said.

There, deputies found more than 22,100 cannabis plants inside 55 hoop houses, or long dome-shaped greenhouses made with PVC pipes and plastic tarps. Burned cars, tires and other garbage littered the grow site, which was started less than two months ago, Barney said.

One person ran away into a brushy hillside upon the deputies’ arrival and had not been located by Tuesday afternoon, Barney said.

Authorities detained two women and eight men. The Sheriff’s Office withheld their names because they were still being questioned and had not been formally arrested, according to Barney. Most were not tribal members living on the property.

The missing man, Victor Medina, 29, was not located on the property, Barney said.

Tuesday’s search came in response to an influx of reports from Round Valley Indian Reservation residents about multiple illegal marijuana grows throughout the reservation, which were erected by people outside the Round Valley Indian Tribes over the last few months, Mendocino County Sheriff Matthew Kendall said.

The presence of the marijuana grows, which have led to violence and even death on the reservation in years past, caused residents and tribal elders to grow wary about hunting, fishing and other travel through the area, he added.

“I’m not going to put up with it,” Kendall said in a video published online Tuesday. “We can’t have people intimidated and held in their homes for fear that they can’t use the land that belongs to them.”

Mendocino County authorities searching the property Tuesday were assisted by deputies with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and detectives with the San Jose Police Department who were investigating Medina’s disappearance, Barney said. Medina told his wife he was at the grow site during their last phone conversation.

The San Jose Police Department provided few details about their investigation, though it did say Medina was reported missing on April 24. He was last seen in a video phone conversation four days earlier while in Covelo, San Jose police spokeswoman Officer Gina Tepoorten said in an email.

A biologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife also inspected the area next to Mill Creek, a local spawning ground for steelhead trout, Barney said. Once the biologist’s report is completed, the findings will be forwarded to the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office to determine if charges for environmental violations are warranted, he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @NashellyTweets

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