Crime

Shooting at Rancher's Son Leads to Extensive Marijuana Bust

The total value of marijuana seized in Las Animas County is nearly $5.76 million.
The total value of marijuana seized in Las Animas County is nearly $5.76 million. Courtesy of the Las Animas County Sheriff’s Office
A sheriff's department in southern Colorado is putting illegal marijuana growers on notice. In an announcement issued September 16, the Las Animas County Sheriff's Office says that it had found and eradicated over forty illicit pot cultivations over the past several months, and warns that even more raids will follow.

According to LACSO, local sheriff's deputies and members of several other law enforcement agencies collaboratively investigated and eradicated over forty growing sites in Las Animas County alone in the spring and summer; the street value of the destroyed marijuana is estimated at around $5.76 million.

The initial investigation started after a Colorado rancher told the Otero County Sheriff's Office that his thirteen-year-old son was shot at while rounding up cattle grazing on property that his family was leasing. According to the LACSO announcement, the rancher believed his son had come across an illegal marijuana grow, and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation's Black Market Marijuana Team began investigating the area shortly after.

"Two sites were located that investigators believed were used to cultivate illegal marijuana in the eastern part of Las Animas County, in the Las Animas Ranch’s Subdivision," the report reads, adding that 486 marijuana plants and six firearms were seized. Four suspects were arrested in connection with the two grows: Ronnie Thursby, Deven Thursby, Denis Street and Christopher Huxtable.


click to enlarge According to local sheriffs, over forty grows have been identified in Las Animas County this year. - COURTESY OF THE LAS ANIMAS COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE
According to local sheriffs, over forty grows have been identified in Las Animas County this year.
Courtesy of the Las Animas County Sheriff’s Office
That operation is just the tip of the iceberg, according to the LACSO, which says that 5,000 to 15,000 additional plants worth an estimated $5 million were found at more grow sites in the area. However, the LACSO report also notes that officials halted the raids after discovering that a toxic pesticide, Carbofuron, had been sprayed on the plants. "Officials are currently working with environmental specialists to safely remove and eradicate these grow sites and remaining chemicals," the report reads.

Law enforcement officials also located and destroyed around 120 marijuana plants from a separate illegal grow site in the Fishers Peak Ranches subdivision of Las Animas County during the summer, and are "currently working to investigate and eradicate" a handful of other grows, according to LACSO.

The LACSO and Colorado Bureau of Investigation called upon over a half-dozen more law enforcement agencies to aid in the investigation and raids, including the OCSO, Bent County Sheriff’s Office, Baca County Sheriff’s Office, Huerfano County Sheriff’s Office, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office SWAT and Pueblo Police Department SWAT. 
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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.
Contact: Thomas Mitchell