A shooting this week at a San Bernardino marijuana shop is part of a larger problem, police say, as they tackle a growing number of illegal pop-up pot shops.
Relatives of security guard Anthony Pineda were overcome with grief Tuesday in the wake of the shooting death of the 25-year-old in San Bernardino.
Pineda’s job was to secure an illegal marijuana dispensary, and he was gunned down in a robbery attempt Monday night.
Police say the people who worked at the shop have been uncooperative, and locked Pineda inside where cops could not get to him.
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"We had to break the glass door to the front," said Lt. Richard Lawhead of the San Bernardino Police Department.
Lawhead said similar scenes are becoming more commonplace as pot shops, which are Illegal within the city limits, continue to pop up
"We have about 45 dispensaries in the city that we are actively working cases on," he said.
Most of the shops are nondescript locations with no indicators of the marijuana dealings going on inside evident on the exterior of the business.
"It's a cash business, like a bank almost. They have a lot of money, people want access to that money," Lawhead said.
Cops say as they close down one, another opens, and much of the illegal activity occurs in broad daylight.
"They'll go to City Hall and get a business license for a flower shop and, like i said, they are selling the wrong kind of flowers," Lawhead said.
Community policing specialists follow any leads and hand out citations, fines up to $1,000 or eviction notices to those places selling pot illegally.
But some involved in the trade said the city’s laws are blocking some dispensary owners from doing things the right way, allowing the illegal trade to flourish.
"If you don't have a valid recommendation from the state of California you are not going into the shop whatsoever," said a man who would only identify himself as Daniel.
Daniel said he was the owner of a now-defunct shop. He would like to see the city law changed for the cancer and other patients he says he used to sell to.
"We have anywhere from four to eight actual owners (who) are on board to pay taxes and to do it the right way," he said.
Lawhead, the police spokesman, admitted that the city is facing an uphill battle. He said he doubts Pineda’s murder will be the last one San Bernardino sees.
"No, not until not until we do something radical to change it," he said. "I am not sure that there's anything we can do. Some cities have found if we legalize a few of them the others will go away but that isn't the case either. I am not sure that there is a clear it answer."
What Lawhead does know is that police will continue to try and shut down these illegal shops. They are also working to get surveillance video from Tuesday’s homicide. The owners won’t give detectives the access code to the video, so investigators have to break it.
Police are looking for two suspects, one who is believed to have been shot when Pineda fired his gun at the intruders.