Gunplay tied to pot still a mystery | SierraSun.com

Gunplay tied to pot still a mystery

Robyn Moormeister
Sun News Service

NEVADA CITY ” Nevada County’s assistant district attorney said Tuesday it’s “too early” to know whether Saturday night’s alleged home invasion and shootout was an attempt to steal marijuana, as originally reported by the victim and the sheriff’s office.

Also Tuesday, police identified the Yuba County man killed in the shootout as John Scott Shelton, 31, of Linda.

North San Juan resident Dusty Beck, 42, shot Shelton at close range with a shotgun as Shelton and at least one other person entered Beck’s home along Tyler Foote Crossing Road on the San Juan Ridge, according to authorities.

On Tuesday, the sheriff’s office reconfirmed law enforcement’s view of the alleged home invasion as motivated by harvest-time theft of increasingly valuable pot. Beck “was confronted by two suspects who were allegedly attempting to steal his marijuana,” the office said in a statement.

Beck told dispatchers someone was “ripping him off” for his pot, sheriff’s Lt. Bill Evans said Tuesday.

“That came from (Beck),” Evans said, “but that also might be an assumption. We’re looking at all possibilities.”

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Assistant D.A. Anna Ferguson said Tuesday that until investigators know more, she is not comfortable announcing that theft of pot plants was the motivation.

“It could have been many different things,” Ferguson said. “There are so many possible scenarios – debts, a gang could be involved. People shoot each other over cheating.”

Police found nine pot plants at the scene, Evans said. Police have been called out to Beck’s property in the past for reports of attempted theft of marijuana, investigators said at the scene Sunday morning.

Shelton was pronounced dead at the scene.

Beck is recovering from three gunshot wounds, one to his abdomen and one to each leg, at Sutter Roseville Medical Center, according to a family member. Beck was in serious condition Tuesday, hospital spokeswoman Robin Montgomery said.

Police found evidence of three guns at the scene – the shotgun used by Beck, the AR-15 assault rifle used by Shelton and a .22 caliber rifle or gun, Evans said. Beck’s wounds were inflicted with bullets from a .22 caliber gun, Evans said.

“That’s probably why he’s still alive,” he said.

At least one other suspect fled the scene, investigators said.

If an accomplice is captured by police, he or she could be charged with Shelton’s killing, Ferguson said. A co-conspirator can be charged with murder if anyone – an intended victim or not – is killed during the commission of a felony.

“It’s the felony-murder rule,” she said. “Because they came onto the property with guns, it was foreseeable someone could be killed. Even though the pot grower was able to shoot, the intruder could possibly be charged.”

Ferguson also anticipated possible misconceptions people might have about home invasion and the law: If a person’s home is being invaded, she said, that does not give him the right to kill a burglar or trespasser.

However, if it is proved that a deadly weapon was being brandished at a victim, she said, then killing may be legally justified.

“It does appear that the use of deadly force was justified in this case,” she added.

Sheriff’s investigators served a search warrant at Shelton’s Yuba County home late Monday to gain more information about the other person or people who fled the scene of Saturday’s shooting, Evans said.

They also interviewed Shelton’s mother, grandmother and estranged wife.