Seven Lao nationals have been killed at an illegal marijuana growing operation uncovered in rural California, United States.
US authorities found the bodies of six victims who had been shot to death at the scene, while the seventh, a woman, later died in hospital.
More than 20 people lived at the property in Aguanga, in rural California, where makeshift dwellings, a nursery, and vehicles were used for marijuana production.
Officials seized nearly 500kg of marijuana and hundreds of marijuana plants at the residence. The haul is said to have had a street value of up to USD 5 million.
The product was being processed for honey oil, an extremely potent concentrate made by extracting the chemical THC from cannabis.
The seven gunshot victims found dead at the property were Lao nationals.
The motive for the killings remains unclear as the investigation continues, and a search of the area failed to locate any suspects.
Riverside County Sheriff, Chad Bianco, said at a news conference on Tuesday that the illegal marijuana trade remains a constant and deadly menace, even as the state has legalized recreational marijuana.
“We are still processing the scene, we are still processing our witnesses and potential witnesses for any information that they may be able to provide us that can lead us to the identification of suspects,” he said.
The FBI has been called in to assist with the investigation because authorities believe the operation to be connected with those in other states. A number of vehicles found at the scene were registered outside of California.
“All of the people who were on-site that were potential witnesses or victims were Laotians,” he said, indicating that the investigation may go beyond the United States.