Four people who were found dead at a marijuana farm in Oklahoma over the weekend were “executed,” authorities said Tuesday.
In a statement, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said it was not naming a male suspect who remained at large because his identification could put others in danger.
The victims included three men and one woman, the agency said in a statement. They were not identified, but described as Chinese nationals.
A fifth Chinese national was injured in the incident, which occurred Sunday in a rural area northwest of Oklahoma City, the agency said. The person’s condition was not immediately available.
The suspect entered a building on the property at 5:45 p.m., the statement said. Several employees were inside at the time, and the suspect remained there for a “significant amount of time before the executions began,” the agency said.
The statement added that the killings did not appear to be random.
The bureau did not say how the victims were killed. In a statement Monday, authorities said deputies responding to a report of a hostage situation found their bodies.
Armed agents were seen Monday searching for the suspect on the property. A helicopter and a drone were also used, NBC affiliate KFOR of Oklahoma City reported.
A spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs said Tuesday that the agency was investigating whether an active medical marijuana license obtained by the grow operation was valid.
Efforts to reach someone at the business Tuesday were unsuccessful. Reached by phone, a commercial real estate agent handling a sale listing for the land said she didn’t know anything about the owner.
The property, described in the listing as 10 acres with 5,000 square feet of grow space and 50 temporary greenhouses, or hoop houses, was put on the market in May for $999,999.
A neighbor, Brandon Walker, said the property used to be a dairy farm but was sold in recent years to an investment company, which sold the land again before it was converted to a grow operation.
Since Oklahoma voters legalized medical marijuana in 2018, more than 10,000 businesses have been licensed and 1 in 10 residents have gotten cards allowing them to buy the product.
In May, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill temporarily blocking new dispensary and processing licenses. The move came after lawmakers said commercial operations that included out-of-state and foreign growers were exploiting in-state residency requirements and limited enforcement resources.
While the status of the grow operation where the quadruple homicide occurred remains unclear, law enforcement officials have reported a rise in black market operators using suspected human trafficking victims, including Chinese nationals, to grow and trim marijuana sold in legal dispensaries.