Shooting in South Anchorage
Gun shot victim brings marijuana grow operation to light
After responding to a gunshot victim at a South Anchorage gas station early Monday morning, Anchorage police say they stumbled across something else – a commercial marijuana grow operation.
Mark Purcella, 42, told police he had let his dog out the back door of his home, on the 800 block of Center Street, when he was shot in the back by an unknown attacker. His roommate, Michael Hedgepeth, drove him to the Chevron gas station at the intersection of Lake Otis Parkway and Abbott Road.
Police said they detained Hedgepeth for questioning, and then began to search the Center Street residence for evidence of the assault.
Instead, they found an advanced irrigation system, lights, heaters and dozens of marijuana plants.
Lt. Dave Parker, a spokesman for the Anchorage Police Department, said it’s not a surprising scene.
"Statistically, we find that marijuana is involved in assaults, serious assaults and homicides more than any other drug here in Anchorage,” Parker said.
Anchorage Police uncover “dozens and dozens” of commercial grow operations every year. Alaska State Trooper drug enforcement officers said they uncovered 75 grow operations in 2010.
"We're not talking a small amount of marijuana here, we're talking a commercial grower, that's in business, that's making money cultivating marijuana,” said AST Lt. Christopher Thompson.
Police said it all comes down to dollars and cents.
“There are a lot of people who do make a living, and make pretty good money in the State of Alaska, growing marijuana,” Parker said
A single plant can net upwards of $20,000 a year, and Thompson said troopers seized more than 1,300 plants in two separate busts in the Mat-Su Valley last week alone.
In more remote areas of the state, he said the drug could bring in five times as much, selling for roughly $50 per gram.
“Unfortunately, people make a lot of money selling it,” Parker said. “Because of that, they become targets."
It’s money that comes as a steep price.