SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Seven robbers invaded a Central California house used by pot growers and engaged the occupants in a gun battle that killed two of the attackers, while some of their accomplices briefly kidnapped a 15-year-old girl, police said on Friday.
Authorities have arrested three of the suspected robbers from the attack on the home on Thursday in a rural farming community near Fresno, and police said they are investigating whether to bring charges against the marijuana growers.
The robbery illustrates the dangers associated with large-scale marijuana operations, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims told a news conference. Medical marijuana is allowed in California, but authorities said it was not immediately clear if the house was used to grow pot for that market.
The heavily armed robbers falsely identified themselves as U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents when they came to the house, where two adults and four children lived among about 170 marijuana plants, Mims said.
The robbers kicked in the door and were met by the armed occupants, who engaged in a deadly gun fight with the robbers, police said.
One of the suspected robbers, whose name has not been released, was hit by multiple rounds and police found him wounded at the property, said Fresno County Sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Chris Curtice. He later died at a hospital, Curtice said.
The six other robbers fled in two cars, with one group bringing with them a 15-year-old girl they took hostage from the house, police said.
The teenager was dropped off unharmed a short time later in Fresno, and investigators were still looking for the three suspects from that getaway vehicle, police said.
Fresno County sheriff’s deputies followed the robbers’ other car to a hospital where they arrested Sergio Eduardo Hernandez, 23, of San Bernardino, and Chi Tsair Tang, 31, of Madera, police said.
The two men were booked on charges of attempted murder, home invasion robbery, kidnapping, evading a police officer and committing a felony while armed, according to the website for the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.
A wounded man was found inside the car with Hernandez and Tang still wearing his ski mask, police said. The man, whose name was not released, was brought into the hospital where he later died.
Reporting by Jennifer Baires; Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Eric Beech