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Thousands of marijuana plants found in Granada Hills park


For weeks, LAPD narcotics officers kept watch over hundreds of marijuana plants they had discovered in O’Melveny Park in Granada Hills, hoping to catch the person cultivating them.

They would hike the mile and a half from the parking lot and wait in the bushes. A man showed up Aug. 12 and began tending the plants and the extensive irrigation system. The officers followed the man to his car, where they arrested him.

Natale Gabriele, 49, of West Hills, was booked on suspicion of possessing marijuana for sale.

There were 2,700 plants growing in the park, some more than 10 feet high, Det. Robert Holcomb of the LAPD’s narcotics enforcement unit said Thursday. Their street value was estimated at more than $24 million.

“In my 22 years of being a narcotics officer,” he said, “this is the largest narcotics growth I have ever heard of.”

Officers also discovered a sophisticated irrigation system, complete with a dam to block a nearby stream, irrigation tubing and a battery-operated pump and timer that would automatically distribute water to the plants.

Holcomb estimated the plants had been growing in the park for two years, probably starting up after the Sesnon fire ripped through the area in 2008.


“The stalks of the plants were huge,” he said.

LAPD detectives worked with the California Air National Guard Condor Squadron to uncover the marijuana growth. The squadron flew a C-130 aircraft over the area and shot photos.

Upon analysis, a large marijuana plot – with its symmetrical growth pattern differing from a scattering of shrubs and other greenery -- was discovered about 300 yards off the main hiking trail in O’Melveny Park, hidden from view on the ground.

Holcomb said cultivation setups in public parks have become more of a problem, particularly in Ventura County.

LAPD detectives are continuing their investigation.

“Obviously, one person couldn’t have tended to all the plants,” he said.

Gabriele was released from jail after posting $100,000 bail, authorities said. Holcomb said the officers were lucky to arrest the alleged culprit.

“We don’t have the manpower or time to sit up there and wait for that long,” he said. “And if they run and take off, good luck catching them.”

-- My-Thuan Tran

Photo: Marijuana plants found in O'Melveny Park. Credit: Los Angeles Police Department

Comments () | Archives (51)

2 years????what cabbage truck did these bumpkins fall off of????marijuana is an annual not a perrenial....need a dictionary???also 24 million????please....

27,000 huge plants equals millions of dollars that would have been spent on the local economy.

*None* of these outdoor grows on public land would be necessary if cannabis production and consumption were legal- it's common sense. The *only* way to stop the continuing destruction of our public land is to legalize cannabis this November- it's a simple issue of supply and demand.

Legalize, regulate and tax this simple plant and so much that is just wrong will be made right.

This is the same lies that are always perpetuated by the legalize cannabis crowd, there will always be crime associated with this drug, because it will be taken over by organized crime, and once again there is no mention of the damage to society from all these "weed smokers"in terms of health care costs, increased traffic fatalities, and increased accidents at the workplace. They never mention the high price to society, its an inconvenient truth.

L-E-G-A-L-I-Z-E. Let the pigs get back to their donut breaks.

Even if the current marijuana initiative were made into law, you still wouldn't be able to grow 2,700 plants in your backyard, much less public land.


What a waste of law-enforcement time and resources.

$24 million? That's a ridiculous overstatement of value. At the same time, why is a plant, which would be growing whether or not human beings were around, illegal? It makes about as much sense as making bananas illegal. I can see removing the plants from public land, as that is the right thing to do. But, I cannot fathom why a plant, whose existence predates human intercession, is illegal. That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Silly politicians make silly and senseless laws.

With 22 years as a narc you would think Detective Holcomb would know that cannabis is not a narcotic. Unfortunate that our law enforcement officers often have quite low levels of intelligence.

First of all, the 2700 plants in non budding form, which they would of been in August, were worth more like $27.00 than the very funny 24 million stated. What a joke....

Second, they took officers off the street fighting crime twice a day for this? You have to be kidding.... In today's climate of shrinking funds for police officers, you would think they had better things to do..... How much did that C-130 cost with the crew to fly? Exactly....Dumb....

They would of been better off going once and destroying the useless too young to flower plants in one pop.... Idiots, all of them...

Stop the war.

The cops are clueless. First the lie marijuana is a narcotic. How stupid are these morons? Secondly, marijuana is a plant that dies every fall. Some strains are kept alive in the vegetative state,but only on small scale and indoors under grow lights.The cops keep these lies going to protect their jobs.

i highly doubt the value of this "bust" was 24 million. im sure most of the plants were not even producing flowers and the police just factored int he weight of the soil, plants, branches, etc.

I agree about making it legal. The time, money and resources being wasted on anti-marijuana programs could be put to much better use. Education for example. Peace and love my 420 friends!

can you please at least sell off the pot to close the budget deficit?

Phew! I feel so much safer now.

“In my 22 years of being a narcotics officer,” he said, “this is the largest narcotics growth I have ever heard of.”

Um . . . . marijuana isn't a narcotic.

it is funny where law enforcement puts its priorities.

Marijuana? In Grenada Hills? That's it, the End of the World is finally and unarguably upon us. Say goodbye, everyone!

Examine this case closely. Mr. Gabriele harmed no one and nothing. Had he grown roses the result would have been the same, except in this case it was not roses but a simple, harmless weed for which he was arrested, jailed, and his bail set at $100,000--the same amount as that imposed for manslaughter, kidnapping, first-degree robbery, carjacking, human trafficking, assault with a firearm upon a peace officer, rape, or assault with injury to a child and many other crimes of violence! A huge number of murders and other crimes remain unsolved in Los Angeles while law enforcement diverts its attention to a petty weed.

People are being killed everyday by gangs and this is how our police choose to use their limited resources?

Just legalize it and take the profit and crime out of the system. This is no better than the Treasury Department of old busting stills in the hills of Kentucky.

Please vote to legalize pot in November.

Thank you.

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