What started out to be a courtesy report regarding an open garage door instead led police to the seizure of hundreds of marijuana plants.
The incident, on Thursday night, Oct. 1, occurred about 10:30 p.m. in the 2400 block of Jessica Circle, according to Escalon Police Chief Rob Lackey.
“Officer (Travis) Sharp was on patrol and he noticed an open garage door,” explained the chief. “He also noticed that the door going from the garage to the residence was open and there was no light on in the home so he was going to attempt to notify the residents of the doors being open.”
As the officer approached the home, Lackey said, he noticed a “heavy odor of marijuana” emanating from the location. Sgt. Gustavo Flores and additional officers responded to the scene and subsequently, a search warrant was served for the premises.
“Over 450 mature marijuana plants were found,” Lackey said, noting that the residence – which was being rented – had been turned in to an illegal “crude” grow-house operation, with exposed wires hanging down everywhere and special lights on the plants as well as chemicals found on scene.
“There was more marijuana than furniture,” Lackey said. “The residents were not there … it appears as though they left in a hurry.”
There was evidence of people living in the home but no one was there when police initially made contact. Lackey said there are two “persons of interest” in the case, identified as Graciela Mejia and Gerardo Maldonado.
Anyone with information that could lead to their whereabouts or other information in connection with the case is asked to contact Officer Sharp at 209-838-7093.
The chief added that the plants were seized as evidence; the majority will be disposed of although some will be kept as evidence in the case.
Meanwhile, in an arrest of note for the department, a prior burglary was solved and a man jailed in connection with the incident.
Police reported the Sept. 30 arrest of Justin Johnson on suspicion of felony first degree burglary, petty theft and peeping after first investigating a reported burglary in the 1600 block of St. Clair on Sept. 27. Several items were reported taken in that incident.
Tuesday, Sept. 29, officers responded to a complaint of a camera found outside a home, looking in to a bathroom in the 1300 block of Stanislaus Street. The camera was later determined to be one of the items taken in the St. Clair burglary. Police said a subject could be seen on footage from the camera when it was taken. Authorities made contact with Johnson and, according to the police report, he was wearing “clothing consistent with what was seen on the video” footage. After a search warrant was obtained, other items reported as taken in the prior burglary – including a handgun – were recovered at Johnson’s residence. He was arrested and booked at San Joaquin County Jail on $160,000 bail.