Police have identified a suspect in the weekend slayings of four people at an Oklahoma marijuana farm but said Tuesday they aren’t releasing a name because doing so could put more people in danger.
Authorities said the three men and one woman, who were Chinese citizens, were “executed” on the 10-acre (4-hectare) property west of Hennessey, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) northwest of Oklahoma City. A fifth victim who is also a Chinese citizen was wounded and taken to an Oklahoma City hospital.
Next-of-kin notification was still pending “because of a significant language barrier,” police said.
Authorities have a suspect in mind, but the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is withholding the name for now to avoid endangering others.
“The suspect was inside that building for a significant amount of time before the executions began,” OSBI said in a news release Tuesday. “Based on the investigation thus far, this does not appear to be a random incident.”
State police said Tuesday the victims had been shot.
OSBI Capt. 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. “Don’t know if they’re related, or if they’re coworkers, but certainly these individuals were, we believe, all familiar with each other.”
Authorities have not identified the victims. The case is being investigated as a quadruple homicide.
The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control is also investigating the deaths.
The agency has targeted criminal growing and trafficking of marijuana for the black market in recent years. But agency spokesman Mark Woodward said Tuesday it was too soon to say that was a focus of this investigation.
“It being a marijuana farm, obviously Oklahoma state law requires that they have a license from the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority and from us,” Woodward said. “One of the things we’re looking at is, is it obtained legally or was it obtained by fraud? So that’ll be part of our investigation.”
Porsha Riley, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, said there is an active license for a medical marijuana grow business at the location.
None of the 14 marijuana growing operations in the Hennessey area responded to email inquiries from The Associated Press, and officials would not identify which one operated at the site of the shootings.
The Kingfisher County Sheriff’s Office initially responded to a reported hostage situation at the farm and requested help from state authorities, Florence said.
Police searched the property late Sunday and Monday, using drones and helicopters and on the ground, but did not find the suspect, Florence said.
“There’s a lot to unravel with this case,” he said. “It’ll take a little time for us to process it.”
Oklahoma voters legalized medical marijuana in 2018, and the industry quickly boomed thanks to an open-ended law that put in place fewer restrictions than in other states.
In March, voters will decide whether to legalize recreational use of the drug.
Maryland and Missouri approved recreational marijuana in this month’s midterm elections, bringing the total number states that allow recreational use to 21. Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota voters rejected legalization proposals in the midterms.
Hollingsworth reported from Mission, Kansas. Associated Press writers Jill Bleed in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Adam Kealoha Causey in Dallas contributed.
Follow AP’s coverage of marijuana: https://apnews.com/hub/marijuana