Federal Grand Jury Indicts Four In Deputy Shooting At Cannabis Grow

In the early morning of Wednesday, October 23, 2019, 47-year-old El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office deputy Brian Ishmael and an off-duty San Joaquin County deputy responded to a report of cannabis theft from a garden at a home on Sand Ridge Road in El Dorado, California.

The caller claimed that five people were in his garden with flashlights, taking his marijuana and also going onto his neighbor’s property.

When the deputies arrived at the scene and approached the garden in the darkness, they were met with gunfire.

The officers returned fire but the San Joaquin deputy was struck in the thigh and Deputy Ishmael was fatally wounded after being shot in the foot and twice in his upper chest.

Firing back, the officers struck 20-year-old Juan Carlos Vasquez before arresting him along with 22-year-old Ramiro Bravo Morales, both Mexican nationals.

The San Joaquin deputy was treated for his injury and released the same day.

Deputy Brian Ishmael died at the scene.

The man who made the initial 911 call to report the theft, 47-year-old Christopher Gary Ross, was later arrested on suspicion of manslaughter after it was revealed that he did not disclose that he was in a business relationship with the suspects that he was reporting.

According to court documents, an agreement had been made with an individual named “Jaime” and his associates that allowed them to grow cannabis on Ross’ property in exchange for $13,000.

Vasquez and Morales had been hired in September and October, respectively, to help cultivate and harvest cannabis in the garden.

At some point, Ross received $2,000 in cash and a Jeep Cherokee valued at $8,000, but the remaining $3,000 was to be paid at the end of the cultivation season.

But Ross became concerned about the final payment when the garden was ready for harvest in mid-October as tops had been removed from some of the cannabis plants and he had not received the rest of the money.

Approximately 45 minutes after Ross made the first emergency call, he called 911 a second time after deputies from the El Dorado Sheriff’s Office had arrived on the scene, telling the operator that it sounded like someone had tried to get into his house and stating that he had heard probably like 50 shots fired.

At no point during either 911 call did Ross mention that he knew the people in the garden or that they were armed.

During a search, law enforcement officers found approximately 75 large cannabis plants in the garden and a Smith & Wesson Model 59 9mm pistol loaded with four rounds of ammunition hidden in some dense brush.

Hours after the shooting, 25-year-old Jorge Lamas called 911 and reported gunfire at the marijuana grow but did not provide the dispatcher with an address.

Authorities located Lamas using cell phone tracking and arrested him two days later in Yuba City.

Lamas reportedly admitted being a part of the cannabis grow at Ross’ home as well as supervising another illegal grow in Georgetown.

On Thursday, November 7, U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott announced that a federal grand jury had returned a four-count indictment, charging Ross, Vasquez, Morales, and Lamas with marijuana cultivation and firearms offenses in El Dorado County.

The four men were charged with conspiring to cultivate marijuana, cultivation of marijuana, and discharge of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking offense.

Additionally, Vasquez and Morales were charged with being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm.

The marijuana charges carry a sentence of five to 40 years in prison and fines up to $5 million while discharging a firearm during a drug crime is punishable by ten years to life in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

The charge of being an alien in possession of a firearm carries a maximum sentence of ten years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Sentences are to be determined at the court’s discretion and defendants are presumed innocent unless they are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.