Authorities want a man brought to back to Oklahoma to face charges in the execution-style killings of four people at a marijuana farm after he was arrested in South Florida.
The suspect in the weekend killings, Wu Chen, was taken into custody by Miami Beach police and brought to the Miami-Dade County Detention Center, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said Tuesday.
He was arrested “after a car tag reader flagged (the) vehicle he was driving,” the bureau said. The suspect will be charged with murder and shooting with intent to kill and faces extradition to Oklahoma.
OSBI also posted a photo provided by U.S. Marshals of the man sitting shoeless on a curb, apparently with his hands cuffed behind his back.
Authorities said the victims — three men and one woman, all Chinese citizens — were shot dead, “executed” on the 10-acre (4-hectare) property west of Hennessey, a town about 55 miles (90 kilometers) northwest of Oklahoma City. A fifth victim who is also a Chinese citizen was wounded and taken to an Oklahoma City hospital.
The victims had not yet been identified publicly, and officials were still working to notify next of kin, police said.
Authorities had said they had a suspect in mind but were withholding the name for the time being to avoid endangering others.
“The suspect was inside that building for a significant amount of time before the executions began,” OSBI said in a news release earlier Tuesday. “Based on the investigation thus far, this does not appear to be a random incident.”
OSBI Capt. Stan Florence said that authorities believed the suspect knew the victims, who were found dead Sunday night.
“Don’t know if they’re related, or if they’re coworkers, but certainly these individuals were, we believe, all familiar with each other,” Florence said.
The deaths at the marijuana farm were the third mass killing in Oklahoma in a little over a month. On Oct. 27, six children were killed in a suspected murder-suicide in the Tulsa suburb of Broken Arrow, and on Oct. 14, the bodies of four men who’d 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 just the past week, six were killed in the break room of a Walmart store in Virginia and five were slain at a Colorado Springs gay nightclub. The database defines a mass killing as at least four people killed, not including the killer.
The Kingfisher County Sheriff’s Office initially responded to a reported hostage situation at the farm and requested help from state authorities, Florence said.
“There’s a lot to unravel with this case,” he added. “It’ll take a little time for us to process it.”
The case is being investigated as a quadruple homicide. The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control is also investigating.
That agency has targeted criminal growing and trafficking of marijuana for the black market in recent years. But agency spokesman Mark Woodward said Tuesday it was too soon to say that was a focus of this investigation.
“It being a marijuana farm, obviously Oklahoma state law requires that they have a license from the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority and from us,” Woodward said. “One of the things we’re looking at is, is it obtained legally or was it obtained by fraud? So that’ll be part of our investigation.”
Porsha Riley, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, said there is an active license for a medical marijuana grow business at the location.
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 one operated at the site of the shootings.
Oklahoma voters legalized medical marijuana in 2018, and the industry quickly boomed thanks to an open-ended law that put in place 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 states that allow recreational use to 21. Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota voters rejected legalization proposals in the midterms.