Local police speculate drug connection in Piketon shootings

Attorney General Mike DeWine was in Boardman on Tuesday for a speaking engagement about the shootings in Piketon

FILE - In this file photo taken Jan. 13, 2015, marijuana plants sit under powerful lamps in a growing facility in Arlington, Wash. Washington launched its second-in-the-nation legal marijuana market with just a handful of stores selling high-priced pot to long lines of customers. A year later, the state has about 160 shops open, tax revenues have soared past expectations and sales top $1.4 million per day. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Local police in the Valley are following the developments of a mass shooting case in Piketon in southern Ohio, especially since there seems to be a drug connection.

Attorney General Mike DeWine was in Boardman on Tuesday for a speaking engagement. He says police, sheriff’s deputies and other investigators from over 30 local, state and federal agencies have been working on this case ever since the victims were discovered shot to death at four locations.

Authorities have since confirmed finding marijuana growing operations at three of those sites. DeWine says they don’t know how relevant this is to the case yet.

“We don’t know whether there’s a connection between the fact that in three of these houses we found what I would refer to as a commercial marijuana growing operation. Is that relevant? We don’t know. Is it a piece of the puzzle? Certainly.”

Lieutenant Jeff Solic, the man in charge of the Mahoning Valley Drug Task Force, admits he wasn’t surprised to learn authorities uncovered marijuana growing operations at the scenes.

Members of the Task Force admit that while the focus is often on drugs like heroin or meth, marijuana is and has been very prevalent around the Valley.

“Everybody right now is on the opiate train,” Solic said. “The heroin epidemic…we’ve always had a marijuana epidemic.”

It’s been almost two years since Task Force agents raided a grow operation in Mahoning County found at a farm on Western Reserve Road in Canfield. Agents seized close to 500 plants that day.

That’s not to say police don’t still see plenty of marijuana around.

“I can’t remember the last time we’ve had a drug-related search warrant or arrest that there wasn’t at least a small amount of marijuana present,” Solic said.

Agents say much of this area’s marijuana comes from Mexico, but Solic says there are more and more instances of pot coming here from states where it has been legalized.

“It’s being produced legally in those legal states, but it’s absolutely illegal to ship it out or sell it in Ohio or elsewhere.”

Still, he says the demand is growing.

“This stuff out west is a lot more potent.”

It’s also more expensive at as much as $3,000 or $4,000 a pound compared to hundreds of dollars for Mexican marijuana.

“Somebody knows more than they’re saying. I mean, there’s absolutely no doubt about that and we’re going to eventually find it,” DeWine said.

While DeWine calls talk of Mexican cartels being involved in the Pike County murders “speculation,” Solic believes all drug activity can be tied to them eventually.

“If you go up far enough, it’s linked to a cartel. The problem with law enforcement is actually being able to verify that link,” Solic said.


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