Four people who were found dead at a marijuana farm in Oklahoma over the weekend have been “executed,” authorities said Tuesday.
In a statement, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said it would not name a male suspect who remained on the run because his identification could put others at risk.
The victims include 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 on 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., according to the statement. 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 office did not say how the victims were killed. In a statement Monday, authorities said officers responding to a report of a hostage situation found their bodies.
Armed officers were seen Monday searching the property for the suspect. A helicopter and a drone were also used, Oklahoma City NBC affiliate KFOR 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 on Tuesday were unsuccessful. Contacted by phone, a commercial real estate agent who managed a listing for the land said she knew nothing 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 greenhouses, went 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 farming operation.
Since Oklahoma voters legalized medical marijuana in 2018, more than 10,000 businesses have obtained licenses and 1 in 10 residents have obtained cards that allow them to purchase the product.
In May, Governor Kevin Stitt signed a bill temporarily blocking new dispensary and processing licenses. The move came after lawmakers said business operations that included foreign and out-of-state producers 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 an increase in black market operators using suspected human trafficking victims, including Chinese nationals, to grow and trim the marijuana that is sold in legal dispensaries.