LA County Sheriff's Deputies found a structure in the Tujunga Ponds Wildlife Sanctuary in Sunland furnished with bunk beds, tables, shelves, a rock patio and barbeque. Investigators say the man who built the home lived there for more than a year. Gordon Tokumatsu reports from Sunland for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on July 17, 2012.
A man was arrested Monday in connection with building and living in a shed he allegedly constructed near a wildlife sanctuary and covered with camouflage tarp to keep from being detected, sheriff’s officials said.
“It is illegal to be in a Los Angeles County Park after dark, let alone to build a structure and reside there,” LA County Sheriff’s officials said in a statement released Monday night.
“The structure had four bunk beds built into the walls, tables, shelves and even fire extinguishers on the walls. They also had a rock patio in front of the building with a barbeque and tables.”
Deputies were patrolling a remote area of the Tujunga Ponds Wildlife Sanctuary in Sunland when they discovered three men in a small, crude shed -- perched on stilts overlooking a ravine -- with what appeared to be eight marijuana plants growing nearby, officials said.
Robert Downs, 51, told sheriff’s he has been living in the 10-by-20-foot structure for more than a year and construction of the partially-concealed shed began about eight months ago using materials from a home repair store.
Officials say Downs hid the structure “down to the tire of the wheelbarrow” using branches, leaves and camouflage tarp and paint.
Downs was arrested on suspicion of cultivating marijuana and removing plants and trees from a county park. He is being held in lieu of $30,000 bail.
Two other men – ages 30 and 45, both of Sun Valley – were issued citations for Los Angeles County Code violations and released, officials said.
Crews from the county department of public works will remove the structure from the park during the next two weeks, officials said.