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Emerald Triangle residents are calling for the local sheriff to resign after cops shot and killed a tethered dog while raiding a state-licensed weed farm.

The Trinity County Sheriff’s Office raided Nhia Yang’s cannabis farm on May 2nd as part of a larger crackdown on illegal weed farms in Northern California. Local cops, backed by Cal Fire and a slew of other officials, were serving a search warrant to investigate an unlicensed cannabis grow. The cops busted down the gate of the farm, shot one of Yang’s dogs, and then arrested the pot farmer on a slew of trumped-up charges.

“During the service of the Search Warrant at Nhia Yang’s property, Investigators encountered Yang who had five aggressive dogs on the property,” the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office said in a social media post. “Nhia Yang, was non-compliant with Investigators and attempted to keep Investigators away from him by standing near one of the aggressive dogs. When Investigators moved to take Nhia Yang into custody, one of the aggressive dogs attempted to attack an Investigator, who defended himself by firing one shot at the dog. The injured dog was transported to a local veterinary clinic where it passed away.”

The video of the shooting, posted by local reporter Kym Kemp, casts some doubt on the official version of events, though. In the video, one of the cops can be heard saying “don’t touch the dog, he just got pepper sprayed.” When police approached Yang to arrest him, the dog moved toward a Cal Fire officer, who shot it instead of just stepping back out of its range. The bullet did not kill the animal immediately, and the video shows Yang moving towards his dog while it screamed in pain.

Yang held his hands up during the entire encounter, but cops charged him with resisting arrest because he backed away from them for a second. And even though the dog was chained up, he was also charged with allowing a dog to attack someone. Jackie Riccio, co-founder of nonprofit group Cannabis for Conservation, told SFGate that Yang, who is not a native English speaker, may not have fully understood the orders that officers were shouting at him.

“I think when he was trying to walk away he was trying to get someone because he didn’t understand what was happening,” Riccio said. “Then they let themselves in the yard, let themselves within reach of the dog, then shot the dog and told him he was resisting arrest.”

Yang was also charged with unlawful possession of commercial cannabis, even though he and his family did indeed have a state-approved license to grow adult-use weed. California requires weed businesses to obtain both state and local licenses before they can start planting pot, though, and Yang did not yet have a county license. A legal battle forced Yang and thousands of other Trinity County pot farmers to start their applications over in 2021, and most of these small businesses have yet to receive their local licenses.

Lisa Wright, owner of the Flowra cannabis consulting firm, told SFGate that she was working to help Yang receive his state license. Wright called the raid an “incredibly disturbing use of force” and brought up the fact that California law requires violations by state-licensed pot businesses to be handled by a civil process, and not the cops. 

“They should have never been there,” she added. “They misused their power in categorizing the cultivation of cannabis by a licensed state farmer as a criminal matter. How our sheriff has leaped to the misinterpretation that this is a narcotics major crime is baffling all of us.”