Armed guards guard a fixture outside the potting yard before 4 were killed

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Armed guards were a fixture outside marijuana growing operation in rural Oklahoma where four people were killed execution style.

The postman “was met with guns pretty much the whole time,” Jack Quirk, the owner of the local newspaper, All About Hennessey, told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “Why are there guards anyway? You know, if it’s legal. farm, what’s the matter?”

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation announced Tuesday that the suspect in this weekend’s killing, Wu Chen, was arrested by Miami Beach police and taken to the Miami-Dade County Detention Center.

He was arrested “after a license plate reader flagged (the) vehicle he was driving,” the agency said. The suspect will be charged with murder and shooting with intent to kill and faces extradition to Oklahoma. A lawyer has not yet been appointed for him.

Authorities said the victims — three men and one woman, all Chinese nationals — were shot and “executed” on the 10-acre property west of Hennessey, a town about 55 miles (90 kilometers) northwest of Oklahoma City. A fifth victim, also a Chinese national, was injured and taken to an Oklahoma City hospital.

The survivor had been shot twice, said Quirk, who showed up as crews were setting up a landing zone for a medical helicopter and watched them load the man up.

The victims had not yet been publicly identified, and officials were still working to notify next of kin, police said.

“The suspect was inside that building for a significant amount of time before the executions began,” the OSBI said in a news release earlier Tuesday. “Based on the investigation so far, it does not appear to be a random incident.”

Oklahoma voters legalized medical marijuana in 2018, and the industry quickly boomed thanks to an open law that imposed fewer restrictions than in other states.

In March, voters will decide whether to legalize recreational use of the drug.

Maryland and Missouri approved recreational marijuana in this month’s midterm elections, bringing the total number of states allowing recreational use to 21. Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota voters rejected legalization proposals in the midterms.

Quirk said he has heard from residents who believe marijuana farms in Oklahoma are poorly regulated.

“They were not prepared for what comes with this,” he said. “This particular facility is a good example of … they were doing questionable things that the neighbors feel were not checked on.”

He said the majority of the workers did not speak English and he never saw them leave the property. That has prompted locals to raise concerns about working conditions, Quirk said.

Porsha Riley, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, said there is an active license for a medical marijuana grow business at the site.

The operation was put up for sale earlier this year for just under $1 million. The listing described it as having several thousand square feet of indoor growing space as well as two separate living quarters.

Tami Amsler-ZumMallen, listing agent for the property, said the listing had expired. She said the brokers had asked her not to comment.

The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control has targeted the criminal cultivation and trafficking of black market marijuana in recent years. But agency spokesman Mark Woodward said Tuesday it was too early to say that was the focus of that investigation.

None of the 14 marijuana-growing operations in the Hennessey area responded to email inquiries from The Associated Press, and officials would not identify which was operating at the scene of the shootings.

The deaths at the marijuana farm were the third mass killing in Oklahoma in just over a month. On October 27, six children were killed in a suspected murder-suicide in the Tulsa suburb of Broken Arrow, and on October 14, the bodies of four men who had gone missing were found dismembered in an Oklahoma river.

According to a database run by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University, the United States has now had 40 mass killings so far this year. In the past week, six were killed in the break room of a Walmart store in Virginia, and five were killed at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs. The database defines a mass killing as at least four people killed, not including the killer.

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Hollingsworth reported from Mission, Kansas. Associated Press writers Jill Bleed in Little Rock, Arkansas, Adam Kealoha Causey in Dallas and Peter Orsi in Denver contributed.

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Follow AP’s coverage of marijuana: https://apnews.com/hub/marijuana

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