The authorities in Oklahoma were searching on Tuesday for a suspect who they believe killed four people “execution style” and injured one more in an attack at a rural marijuana farm on Sunday.
The suspect, whose name has not been released, knew the victims, but it is unclear how, Capt. Stan Florence of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said at a news conference on Monday.
“They all know each other,” he said. “Don’t know if they’re related, don’t know if they’re co-workers, but certainly, we believe they were all familiar with each other.”
The victims were all Chinese, the authorities said Tuesday, adding that “because of a significant language barrier, next of kin notification is pending.”
Brook Arbeitman, a spokeswoman with the bureau, said by phone on Tuesday that officials were still investigating what had motivated the killings. She added that officials were withholding the identity of the suspect because releasing it would put additional people in danger.
Deputies at the Kingfisher County Sheriff’s Office initially responded to calls of a hostage situation at the marijuana farm on Sunday.
At about 5:45 p.m. on Sunday, the suspect entered a building at the marijuana farm on a rural road near Hennessey, Okla., which is about 70 miles northwest of Oklahoma City. Several employees were inside the building at the time, Ms. Arbeitman said.
The suspect was inside the building “for a significant amount of time” before violence erupted, the authorities said.
Ms. Arbeitman said the three men and one woman had been shot and killed in a “violent, execution-style manner.” She did not offer more specific information.
“It was clearly an execution and not just a random firing,” she said.
The person who was wounded was still hospitalized on Tuesday, Ms. Arbeitman said.
Mark Woodward, a spokesman with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, which is also investigating the deaths, said by phone on Tuesday that the site where the killings occurred had a license to grow marijuana. But officials were still investigating whether that license had been obtained legally or fraudulently, he added.
Since the spring of 2021, the state has given out about 8,500 licenses to grow marijuana, but officials have determined that about 2,000 of those licenses were obtained fraudulently, Mr. Woodward said.
To qualify for a license, Oklahoma requires that applicants seeking at least a 75 percent ownership stake of the marijuana farm must show that they have resided in the state for at least two years. The rule proved easy to bypass, Mr. Woodward said, with people — mostly from countries like China and Mexico — finding “ghost owners” in the state to help fulfill the requirement and establish criminal organizations that grow for the black market.
“I can’t say that that’s what this group is doing,” Mr. Woodward said of the farm where the killings occurred. “That’s what we will determine in our investigation.”
He added that “there’s also a violence aspect” tied to the criminal organizations, with unpaid debts often leading to violence.
“We’ve had several homicides tied to medical marijuana businesses in Oklahoma,” Mr. Woodward said.