Bay Area man gets federal prison for shootout outside Richmond cannabis grow warehouse

Bay Area man gets federal prison for shootout outside Richmond cannabis grow warehouse

OAKLAND — A Bay Area man was sentenced to six years and eight months in federal prison Thursday, after pleading guilty to offenses related to a 2017 shootout during an attempted burglary of a marijuana grow warehouse in Richmond, court records show.

Vernell Thrower, 30, of Oakland, was sentenced immediately after pleading guilty to attempting to possess marijuana plants with intent to distribute, and carrying a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. He also pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a machine gun, court records show.

Thrower was charged as part of what started as a small marijuana burglary investigation but eventually blossomed into a 13-defendant indictment alleging that the defendants were linked to a so-called “open air drug and gun market” on the 200 block of Makin Road in Oakland. Authorities installed secret hidden cameras on the block, and recorded dozens of illegal firearm transactions, as well as crack cocaine sales, according to court records.

Several defendants have pleaded guilty, with sentences ranging from three to 10 years, court records show.

Thrower pleaded guilty to an August 2017 burglary in which he and others cut about 200 marijuana plants from a Richmond grow warehouse. The burglary was interrupted, leading to a shootout between the owners and the burglars, including Thrower. Three months later, Thrower sold a Glock pistol with a switch installed to make it fully automatic, according to the plea agreement.

A security camera inside the grow warehouse captured Thrower, gun in hand, during the burglary, prosecutors said.

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers handed down the sentence after taking Thrower’s guilty plea.

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