California Teen Missing After Botched Pot Farm Theft

PHOTO: Sammy Mercado, a 16-year-old from Cailifornia, is missing after trying to steal marijuana from an illegal farm.
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A California teen who was allegedly trying to steal pot from an illegal marijuana farm is missing after armed men fired at him while his friends drove away.

Police believe that Sammy Mercado, 16, of Sanger, Calif., was shot or wounded when he and friends drove to an illegal marijuana "grow" in rural Fresno County last Thursday.

Mercado was the only one of his friends to leave their vehicle and walk toward the farm, at which point two armed Asian guards emerged from a building and began firing shots at him, according to ABC News affiliate KFSN.

Mercado's two friends drove away, but returned later to retrieve their friend and saw a third Asian male pull up in an old Toyota Camry with the trunk opened, KFSN reported. Police do not know whether Mercado was placed in the trunk.

"The other subjects are cooperating with detectives, who have been working the case straight through trying to track these three men down," Fresno County Sheriff's spokesman Chris Curtice said while referring to the teens who were with Mercado.

But investigators have found no one at the pot farm and police have faced challenges in determining who owns and runs the marijuana patch, which is illegal in Fresno County, Curtice said. The land had been leased and then subleased subsequent times, and it is unclear to authorities who was in charge of the five-acre parcel.

Curtice said that marijuana "grows" are common throughout the county, and are often guarded by armed men in towers on the property. The grows are illegal.

"There are so many of them, and we only have so many resources. This was a four- or five-acre grow, which is even considered smaller than a lot of the other ones," Curtice said.

As illegal marijuana farms have sprung up throughout hte valley in Fresno County, crime has risen along with it, Curtice said. The county had a similar case recently of armed pot guards shooting and killing a thief who was trying to steal marijuana from their farm, he noted.

Curtice said that detectives are working primarily on locating Mercado, but will investigate the marijuana farm as well. Police are asking the public to offer any tips regarding Mercado's wherabouts, including reports of two vehicles in connection with his disappearance: a green 2002 Dodge pickup lifted on larger tires or a later model red Dodge pickup truck from the mid-2000s, occupied by an Asian male in his mid-twenties. Both cars were seen leaving the marijuana grow, Curtice said.

Family members told KFSN that they have been trying to look for Mercado, but have no idea where to begin.

"It's not about snitching or ratting, it's about a human life. This kid has his whole life ahead of him," relative Virgil Garza said. "I'm not saying he's perfect, but he needs to come home. Somebody out there knows what happened to Sammy."

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