20240130 california
Vehicles where several people were found shot to death in El Mirage, California. Image Credit: AP

Los Angeles: California police said Monday that the slaying of six people whose bodies were found in the desert appeared to be related to a dispute over drugs and that five people had been arrested.

Get exclusive content with Gulf News WhatsApp channel

The corpses - all of which had fatal gunshot wounds and some of which had been burned - were discovered on a dirt road around 50 miles (80 kilometers) outside Los Angeles, surrounded by bullet casings.

No attempt had seemingly been made to hide them.

Officers in San Bernardino County received an emergency call last Tuesday from one of the men who had been shot, said Sergeant Michael Warwick, adding that the call ended abruptly.

"Officers discovered a crime scene and what appeared to be multiple gunshot wound victims, two vehicles and one of the vehicles apparently had multiple gunshot strikes," he told reporters.

"Deputies... located four deceased males with severe burns. A fifth deceased male was located in the Chevy Trailblazer and a sixth deceased male a short distance away who had sustained a gunshot wound."

Five men were arrested on Sunday, and all are being held without bail on suspicion of involvement in the killings.

San Bernardino Sheriff Shannon Dicus said the slayings had the hallmarks of organised crime, and officers were working on the assumption that they stemmed from a dispute over illicit marijuana.

He said the area was known for illegal marijuana production, a business dominated by organized crime he said was booming despite the legalization of the drug in California several years ago.

"It certainly looks like it has a lot of the modeling of cartel cases," he said.

Pockets of Southern California are plagued by violence, including from Hispanic drug gangs vying for control of the lucrative market.