Police have identified a suspect in the killing of four people at an Oklahoma marijuana farm over the weekend, but said Tuesday they were not releasing a name because it could put more people at risk.
Authorities said the three men and one woman, who are Chinese citizens, were “executed” at the 4-acre property west of Hennessey, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) northwest of Oklahoma City. A fifth victim, also a Chinese citizen, was injured and taken to an Oklahoma City hospital.
The notification of the next of kin is still pending “due to a significant language barrier”, the police said.
Authorities are eyeing a suspect, but the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is withholding the name for now to avoid endangering others.
“The suspect was in this building for a considerable time before the executions began,” OSBI said in a Tuesday news release. “Based on the investigation to date, this does not appear to be a random incident.”
State police said Tuesday the victims had been shot.
OSBI Captain Stan Florence said the previous day that authorities believe the suspect knew the victims, who were found dead Sunday night.
“They all know each other,” Florence said. “I don’t know if they’re related or if they’re colleagues, but we think these individuals were certainly all familiar with each other.”
Authorities have not identified the victims. The case is being investigated as a quadruple murder.
The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control is also investigating the deaths.
The agency has targeted the criminal cultivation and trafficking of marijuana for the black market in recent years. But agency spokesman Mark Woodward said Tuesday it was too early to say it was a focus of this investigation.
“Because this is a marijuana farm, Oklahoma state law obviously requires that they have a license from the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority and from us,” Woodward said. “One of the things we’re investigating is whether it was obtained legally or through fraud? So that will be part of our investigation.”
Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority spokeswoman Porsha Riley said there is an active license for a medical marijuana cultivation business at the site.
None of the 14 Hennessey-area marijuana farms responded to email inquiries from The Associated Press, and officials declined to identify which farm operated at the scene of the shooting.
The Kingfisher County Sheriff’s Office initially responded to a reported hostage situation at the farm and asked state authorities for help, Florence said.
Police searched the property using drones and helicopters and on the ground late Sunday and Monday but did not find the suspect, Florence said.
“There’s a lot to unravel in this case,” he said. “It will take a little while for us to process it.”
Oklahoma voters legalized medical marijuana in 2018, and the industry quickly boomed thanks to a permanent law that imposes fewer restrictions than in other states.
In March, voters will decide whether recreational use should be legalized of the drug.
Maryland and Missouri approved recreational marijuana in this month’s midterm elections, bringing the total number of states allowing recreational use to 21. Voters in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota rejected legalization proposals in the Midterms.
Hollingsworth reported from Mission, Kansas. Associated Press writers Jill Bleed of Little Rock, Arkansas, and Adam Kealoha Causey of Dallas contributed.
Follow AP’s coverage of marijuana: https://apnews.com/hub/marijuana