Pot found near elementary school

Staff reportSeptember 18, 2013 

A marijuana operation was found within 75 yards of an elementary school in Coarsegold on Thursday night. Agents were able to secure the site before school opened the next day. Madera County Sheriff John Anderson announced the successful completion of the emergency marijuana eradication mission Friday.

Four-hundred marijuana plants, ready for harvest, were discovered.

A 12-man team was assigned to the incident, most of them from the Madera Regional SWAT team.

The eradication mission was set in motion at around 7 p.m. Thursday when the Madera County Narcotic Enforcement Team received word that a marijuana plant had been found on Coarsegold Elementary School grounds.

MADNET quickly secured a search warrant on the nearby property and held a briefing with both Anderson and Coarsegold Elementary School Principal Bob Rose. Rose was prepared to put his school on lockdown if the mission could not be accomplished before students were scheduled to arrive on campus.

Erica Stuart, public information officer with the sheriff’s department, said the safety and welfare of the children, faculty and staff was vital. So agents were not afforded time to gather any information about who lived on that property, how many people occupied the property, if there were children, if they had dogs or if any of them might be armed.

When agents arrived at dawn, they saw two men flee the operation and head into dense brush, according to the police. A pit bull appeared and charged at the deputies. For their safety, they shot the dog. The foot chase ended when the suspects were apprehended on school grounds. Deputies removed both men from the campus and whisked them back to the location that had been secured by additional officers on scene.

The location of the property is not being released at this time.

“No one was injured, and because of their swift timing, agents were able to complete this delicate mission before the first bus arrived at the school. Therefore no lock down was needed,” said Anderson.

Two children found living in complete squalor inside a house on the property were placed in the care of Child Protective Services.

As many as five adults occupied the residence and were reportedly sharing rooms in the home, as well occupying make-shift camps scattered throughout the five-acre lot.

Four separate gardens were located, all of them within 75 yards of the elementary school.

In light of the close proximity of the marijuana eradication mission, Rose said that a student counselor would be available to students in the event that they may have any questions and to assure them they are safe at school.

Police officials said no further information can be released at this time due to the nature of the investigation, including information about the suspects.

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