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UPDATE: Police Deny Ground Search For Grow Site, Locals Skeptical

Law enforcement sources aren't talking about efforts to find out who fired shots at an East Bay Regional Parks police officer Monday, but locals say a search for evidence is under way.

Police deny that they have officers searching the rugged hillsides south of Moraga after a scary exchange of gunfire between an East Bay Regional Park police officer and several suspected "pot guards" near  on Monday night.

But residents living near the remote area straddling the Contra Costa and Alameda County lines said Tuesday that helicopters were flying over the area and small units of officers in camouflage fatigues and armed with automatic weapons were searching the area. Law enforcement sources predicted that officers would return to the scene of the reported shootout in search of evidence Tuesday - and they did.

The police response, which included use of a park police armored vehicle, appears to be the latest exchange in what many feel is a heightened campaign against organized growers operating on public land in Northern California. Earlier this month, East and confiscated 3,300 plants worth an estimated $1 million. No arrests were made in that case.

Park Police Capt. Mark Ruppenthal said early Tuesday that law enforcement personnel were pulling out of Upper San Leandro Reservoir "to plan," and that additional manpower and resources would be needed before a coordinated search could be mounted — and any crop found during the search destroyed. Public access to the area would be curtailed.

But law enforcement sources and some residents maintained that helicopter flights over the largely inaccessible area resumed as soon as morning fog lifted Tuesday — though at least some of the aerial armada were believed to be news helicopters hoping to capture footage of any action on the ground.

Search teams entered the area near the reservoir "as soon as it was safe to fly," law enforcement sources said.

"They'd go in to collect evidence - shell casings and anything else they could find," one former officer said. "It's a crime scene."

Local interest in the Upper San Leandro Reservoir area, a favorite haunt of dedicated hikers about 3.5 miles south of Moraga, heightened shortly after 6:50 p.m. Monday when an East Bay Regional Park police officer left his vehicle to patrol a trail on foot as darkness fell. Some residents living in the leafy, adjacent community of Canyon have hinted at the presence of large-scale "grows" in the area — some operated by locals and others, presumably, by Bay Area gang members or Mexican cartels — and theorize that the officer ran into "guards" posted to protect the grow site.

The unidentified officer reportedly encountered several individuals, at least two of whom were armed with semi-automatic weapons, and ended up returning fire on the group when one of the men opened fire on him.

It was not known how many shots were fired. The officer was not hit and it was not immediately known if he hit any of the men.

No details about the armed men emerged Tuesday, though the man police said opened fire first was described as wearing tan or khaki clothing.

What did emerge is that police have encountered grow operations in the area over the years, photographing armed men in the area within the last couple of years.

"It's all about the crop," one former officer said. "It's not going anywhere. As long as you know where it is, all you have to do is sit on it and eventually haul it out of there."

Jackie July 27, 2011 at 02:13 AM
I am sickened that the police photographed groups of armed men and dare not tell anyone and we frequent that area daily with our kids and dogs!!
Brad Katkowsky July 27, 2011 at 03:19 AM
In the video the officer says they photographed armed men within the last year or so and have taken down grows in the area before. And yes that info would have been nice to know about before hikers go walking down one of those trails.
Moragan July 27, 2011 at 04:13 AM
Wait, what? This is gonna be put on the "Ignore It, and It Will Go Away" shelf? Really? C'mon, we're talking about public safety. To Serve & Protect. What happened to that mantra? So what's next, close the park to the general public? What about all the Cub Scouts and Brownie troops that spend the night at the park? Oh, the'll have to sign a waiver now. Typical. What a total lack of commitment to our fellow officers and community. I used to think having a home located next to "open space" was desirable; I guessed wrong. It's a liability
El Cucuy July 27, 2011 at 05:02 AM
OK case closed until the next time someone gets shot at Smugglers' Gulch!
20 year resident July 27, 2011 at 05:09 AM
All of this is an argument to ease restrictions on granting concealed weapons permits. A hiker out enjoying the day should have to right to defend him/herself.
bryan July 27, 2011 at 05:28 AM
So the police try the old "move along, nothing to see here" and then go in heavy again. Once, just once I wished they'd give people the right information.
Vaugh Trapper July 27, 2011 at 05:51 AM
Kepp living in fear buddy. Life isnt a movie concealed weapons will do nothing. Legalize pot not guns no more grow ops no more violence.
Lafayette Curmudgeon July 27, 2011 at 06:03 AM
Not going to happen. Unless we make them.
bryan July 27, 2011 at 02:21 PM
Will Patch be getting a news chopper soon JD??
Nicholas July 27, 2011 at 02:26 PM
Wow. Armored cars and camoflage guys and choppers everywhere and no, no nothing going on here people.
Chris Nicholson July 27, 2011 at 02:30 PM
Legalize both and the problem will be solved for sure. And no one else gets hurt.
Kevin Grabenstatter July 27, 2011 at 03:32 PM
Seriously? These guys had automatic weapons, and there were several of them. I'd have to bring the A-Team with me to stand a chance, not a concealed handgun.
whoride July 27, 2011 at 05:04 PM
ebrp officer said he didn't see any weapons, but they "sounded" like assault rifles. There's a big difference in being in the woods and hearing gunfire close by and having shots fired at you. Did the ebrp officer see people point and fire weapons at him? were there bullet impacts near him? and if he couldn't actually see any weapons, did he see any people, who was he shooting back at? I think the ebrp police need to release the ebrp officers statement of the shooting(s) I'm a bit concerned about hiking up there if ebrp officers are firing away at loud noises and movement
Rob July 27, 2011 at 05:05 PM
Legalize pot - it's no worse than booze - and decriminalize other drugs. The consequences are far milder for society. Guns should be illegal, period. I know...boys wants their toys. But macho fun with a gun isn't worth the lives of all the people who die in gun accidents. They don't work all that well as self-defense; the defender usually shoots his/her own husband/wife/son/daughter by accident, or has the gun stolen in a burglary. The idea that maintaining an arsenal will be a defense against the tyranny of the government is an illusion. Learning the issues, organizing and voting will work better. The arguments for personal ownership of guns are weak and don't come close to justifying the high price we pay.
James Coleridge July 27, 2011 at 05:21 PM
One question: Did they find the shell casings? I mean, they know where the officer was and I presume they have a general fix on where the guys with the assault rifles were. Did they find their brass???
Chris Nicholson July 27, 2011 at 06:08 PM
Wow. Source, please. Prior reports said he saw clothing and thought they were two with "assault rifles." And why, exactly, was this ranger so far off the beaten path alone and randomly wandered into a pot farm? Agree we need more facts and transparency.
karen July 27, 2011 at 06:45 PM
legalize pot? with so many of our kids in treatment? I have 1st hand experience of this destruction. This is not the same drug as years past, with higher THC levels, not only a agteway drug. The new DSM will now include the physical addiction also. Strong research on link to mental disorders & psychotic episodes. Drug control spending is minor in compared to the social costs of drug abuse & addiction. Ignorant reference to ETOH; add another drug as well? ? All we need is more brain dead people driving around and piloting our friendly skies.
Vaugh Trapper July 27, 2011 at 06:56 PM
WTF are you talking about Karen. The higher levels of THC are like drinking brandy over beer. Instead of smoking 8 joints to get high you smoke half of a joint to get high. Gateway drug theory dismissed: http://healthland.time.com/2010/10/29/marijuna-as-a-gateway-drug-the-myth-that-will-not-die/ http://scienceblog.com/12116/study-says-marijuana-no-gateway-drug/ http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-20015429-10391704.html The physical effects of going of marijuana include slight insomnia and increased agitation. Nothing compared to going off Zoloft or legal anti-depresents. http://www.drugscience.org/dl/dl_comparison.html Drug prohibition leads to more violence, that is why we stopped alcohol prohibition. No link to mental problems: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19560900 Also it is your own body if you are over 18 why do you care? The devastation caused by pot is by over-reactive parents and police not the actual harm. How many people do you know who stole from their love ones to get another bong rip? If you don't want pot to be legal you are in the same mindset as the gangs that grow the pot. Get your head out of the ground.
Srnc July 27, 2011 at 07:35 PM
Good rebuttal, Vaugh Trapper. Instead of paying law enforcement officers overtime to go searching through the woods for armed gunmen growing a harmless plant, we could just legalize it, tax it and make money on this instead of losing money on it. Last time I checked, we were in a bit of debt. Marijuana is much less harmful than alcohol. Alcohol is a multi-billion dollar industry which creates countless jobs and brings in millions in revenue to this country/state every year. Marijuana could do the same thing, as well as reduce spending for enforcing this useless law. The only thing preventing this positive change is voters who live in fear and are too stubborn to open their mind. Similar mindset to those who vote to prevent gays from getting married - their reasoning to vote this way is not based on logic, but rather fear and closed-mindedness. Similar to the mindset of those who were pro segregation, against women's rights, etc. It will only be a matter of time before enough people wise up and make changes for the better.
whoride July 27, 2011 at 08:35 PM
from KGO news: "Some of the ladies in there who live closer to the canyon area said they hear rifles, semi-automatics sometimes at night. So I think this has been going on for awhile," it's called target practice. some people play tennis others dress in camo and take the wife and kids and rifles designed to look like AK assault weapons and go out and shoot at things. It's very popular in towns like Rockland, CA but I'm sure there are families in Moraga or Hayward and other areas near canyon that are in to this
whoride July 27, 2011 at 08:42 PM
"reported about 6:50 p.m. by a patrol officer who told dispatchers and said he was under fire from at least two assailants carrying what sounded like automatic weapons" http://www.insidebayarea.com/top-stories/ci_18552537
whoride July 27, 2011 at 08:43 PM
"patrol officer who told dispatchers and said he was under fire from at least two assailants carrying what sounded like automatic weapons" http://www.insidebayarea.com/top-stories/ci_18552537
whoride July 27, 2011 at 08:46 PM
office said to dispatcher: "sounded like" somehow sounded like became "seeing" AK assault rifles by the news
Chris Nicholson July 27, 2011 at 08:52 PM
Thanks. It doesn't day he didn't see them, just that he guessed they were full-auto based on sound alone (not surprising-- how else would you tell?). If true that HE NEVER SAW THE SHOOTERS, that would be a bizarre twist.
Tony Rodriguez July 27, 2011 at 08:53 PM
"Under fire" and "at least two" = reasonable conclusion that the people he could see, whose appearance apparently coincided with gunfire, which he apparently deduced was headed in his direction, were the source of that gunfire. If any of these conclusions turn out to be wrong, then your skepticism (displayed from the very beginning) will turn out to be accurate. You're almost as skeptical of a police officer's report as you are of critics of legacy admission practices.
whoride July 27, 2011 at 09:05 PM
pot growers hide from people, they don't shoot at them and draw attention. So that leaves us with bad guys who like to go walking in the woods, unlikely. Or a wacko in the woods, possible. Or a family out shooting their weapons...believe it or not there's a huge sub-culture of families (mom, dad and the kids) that buy AR and AK weapons, modify them for auto-fire, dress in camo and go out into the woods and shoot at stuff. And some of them live near canyon or commute in...when you hear rapid fire gunfire in the woods it's almost always these people. And most of them are harmless, it's just what they are in to. here's a gun store and forum that's pop for this group. This a gun store where you have to wait in line to get help behind families outfitting everyone with AK's...it's a trip!
whoride July 27, 2011 at 09:06 PM
the AK and AR store for families:) http://tdsguns.com/store/content/14/Reviews/
Lafayette Curmudgeon July 27, 2011 at 09:38 PM
You can hear the Chabot Rifle range almost all the way up and down that canyon, although shooting stops at 5PM. Unless there was a special event that's not apparent from the calendar.
Rob July 27, 2011 at 09:58 PM
Thank you Vaugh Trapper & Srnc on the pot issue. I sympathize with karen, but...if it was legal, there would be control over quality and potency, and I'm inclined to think fewer people would become addicted. Also, they wouldn't end up with criminal records, would probably get more help, and less moral condemnation. And it would undercut all the gang/cartel involvement. The societal benefits far outweigh keeping it illegal..
Eastofthehills July 27, 2011 at 10:20 PM
It would be funny if it turns the gunfire heard was the cops using a rental range at Chabot.

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