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Rastafarian Church Leader Arrested After Officer Involved Shooting

Last week, Heidi Grossman-Lepp, the leader of the cannabis-worshipping Sugarleaf Rastafarian Church in Sacramento, was arrested. Two Yuba County sheriff’s deputies were shot in August by a former Church trimmer after a dispute at one of her ‘churches’. 18 people were arrested altogether. The Sheriff’s Office served search warrants at 12 illegal cannabis growing sites in Yuba and Sacramento counties affiliated with the Church.

The 46-year old Grossman-Lepp, who once worked as a pornographic actress and has falsely claimed to be an Executive Director of NORML, was booked into Sacramento County Jail on charges of felony conspiracy, as well as misdemeanor producing, cultivating  and possessing cannabis for sale. Grossman-Lepp was held under a 1275 hold, meaning a judge must approve the source of funds before bail can be posted.

Authorities seized during the searches approximately $21,000 in cash, 1,500 marijuana plants, as well as five pounds of processed marijuana and eight guns. Grossman-Lepp, who refers to herself as “Reverend” and “Queen”, formed the church in late 2016 with her husband Eddy Lepp.

“Officers Down”

Grossman-Lepp called the Yuba County Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 1, reporting that a cannabis caretaker at an affiliated Church seventy miles north of Sacramento in the Northern California town of Oregon House had become violent.

“This is Reverend Heidi,” she informed a sheriff’s dispatcher. “We have a madman who has a gun and he is desecrating our property.” That’s not all she said, according to her lawyer.

“She told them (during her 911 call) to be careful; he was acting violently and had a gun,” Grossman-Lepp’s attorney, Joseph Tully, told the Sacramento Bee at the time.

Deputies arrived and pursued the suspect, Mark Anthony Sanchez,  to a nearby Dobbins-area home when they were then fired upon. Two officers were shot. They returned fire, and Sanchez died of his injuries. The officers survived. One had been shot in the pelvic area, the other in the arm.

A third deputy pulled the wounded officers out of the home. Responding officers shot canisters of tear gas into the home. No one came out. A remote-controlled robot with a camera was used to determine the suspect had expired inside the house. The wounded deputies were rushed to a hospital in a helicopter ambulance.

“They went up there. They did their job, and they took care of business,” Yuba County Sheriff Steve L. Durfor told reporters.

Arrests and Seizures

Law enforcement authorities served search warrants throughout August and September, and eradicated hundreds of marijuana plants at seven Sugarleaf affiliates in Tehama, Merced, Yolo, Madera and Calaveras counties. 207 plants were eradicated at the Yuba Tree Church farm. 1,500 plants overall were taken down in raids by local and state authorities.

The arrest operation was conducted by the Yuba County Sheriff’s Office, with various law enforcement teams assisting, including the Yuba City Police Department, Yuba Sutter Net 5 Task Force, the Sacramento High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the California State Water Board, and Butte, Nevada and Colusa counties. All 12 sites remain under investigation, according to the Yuba County Sheriff’s Office.

Supervisors allow licensed cultivators to grow a half-acre of plants outdoors. Authorities seized 29,000 plants on unpermitted sites. The sheriff and state water officials lambasted a Sugarleaf Church affiliates for growing seven acres of plants, illegally damming streams, syphoning water and contaminating the environment with pesticides.

Grossman-Lepp claimed these raids violated the Rasta Church’s religious freedom, and that police actions were like sending armed agents “into a Catholic Church to smash all the time, destroy all the communion and arrest people for worshipping.”

Grossman-Lepp, who does not have a license to practice law, has filed 19 lawsuits or legal motions challenging government and police actions.

Grossman-Lepp, who appeared in films like “Buffy the Vamp,” “The Adventures of Buttman,” and “Buttman vs. “Buttwoman”, claims to have suffered childhood abuse. She has run Sugarleaf Professional Services, a cannabis industry consulting firm, for several years.

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