Five individuals were arrested on Sunday in connection with the fatal shooting of six people that occurred during a planned marijuana deal in a remote area near El Mirage, northwest of Victorville. The victims were targeted during a meetup for a marijuana transaction in a region known for clandestine pot farms. San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus revealed at a news conference that investigators received tips immediately after the incident, leading to the arrests. The suspects, apprehended during search warrants in Apple Valley, Adelanto, and a part of Piñon Hills, were linked to what authorities believe was a marijuana grow operation.
Dicus emphasized that the motive behind the murders appears to be related to illicit marijuana activities. The suspects were identified as brothers Toniel Baez-Duarte (34) and Mateo Baez-Duarte (24) of Apple Valley, brothers Jose Nicolas Hernandez-Sarabia (33) and Jose Gregorio Hernandez-Sarabia (34) of Adelanto, and Jose Manuel Burgos Parra (26) of Adelanto. All five face charges of murder and are currently held without bail.
The sheriff explained that a 911 call from one of the victims, who was later identified as Franklin Bonilla, drew law enforcement to the crime scene. The victims, all of whom suffered fatal gunshot wounds, were located using cell phone data. Four of the victims were also set ablaze by the attackers. While four victims were identified, the identities of the remaining two are yet to be disclosed.
Dicus acknowledged that the crime area is known for illicit marijuana activities, and the department has conducted multiple search warrants in the vicinity. The region has been a hotspot for illegal marijuana cultivation, with large farms hidden in the vast desert. The Sheriff’s Department, recognizing the issue, has undertaken operations to counter the growing of marijuana and its sale on the black market, involving teams dedicated to eradication efforts. The investigation is ongoing, and Dicus indicated that the involvement of organized crime, though unclear whether related to cartels, is a possibility in the case.