Shooting Breaks Out As Officers Approach Marijuana Field

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Authorities are continuing to look for two more suspects after a hiker reported a possible marijuana field near Sunflower, about 30 miles south of Payson on the Beeline Highway.

During a marijuana eradication operation Sunday at the Tonto National Forest, Forest Service law enforcement officials encountered four armed men, one who pointed a rifle at an officer.

The officer fired at the suspect three times, hitting him at least once.

The other three suspects fled into the forest.

Lt. Tim Scott of the Gila County Sheriff's Office, said deputies picked up one potential suspect Monday as he walked along the Beeline Highway, about one mile from the Highway 188 turnoff.

Scott said officials from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, Gila County Sheriff's Office, U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Public Safety are involved in the search for the two remaining suspects.

Scott said remote forest roads are being driven by law enforcement in hopes of locating the two suspects.

He said the MCSO and the DPS used at least three helicopters Sunday to try to find the suspects who evaded capture by going deeper into the forest.

The suspect, who was shot, is a 20-year-old Hispanic illegal immigrant, and is in stable condition, according to a press release. He is cooperating with officials.

The second suspect, who was picked up by GCSO deputies, is also an illegal immigrant. Forest Service officials are currently questioning him.

The Gila County Task Force is also investigating, but when reached Monday afternoon declined to comment, referring all questions to the Tonto National Forest public information officer.

According to a press release, 3,100 plants covering approximately four acres were eradicated Sunday, and more plants are still being discovered. The value of the plants is not yet known.

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