Prosecutors in Orange County have charged three Santa Ana police officers with stealing snacks and smashing surveillance cameras while raiding a marijuana dispensary in 2015.
Each of the officers was charged with petty theft, while one was also charged with vandalism for destroying five closed-circuit cameras. The cameras were destroyed “by banging and smashing the camera lenses,” according to the Orange County district attorney’s office.
The officers missed several other hidden cameras and were caught on film stealing and eating cannabis edibles from under a glass countertop. The charges allege they stole only non-psychoactive snacks, despite the clear video evidence.
The charges are all misdemeanors, meaning short jail sentences. Two of the officers, 32-year-old Jorge Arroyo and 37-year-old Nicole Lynn Quijas, face no more than six months in jail and $1,000 in fines. The third, 31-year-old Brandon Matthew Sontag, faces a maximum sentence of 18 months in jail and $2,000 in fines.
The officers raided Sky High Holistic, a medical marijuana dispensary that was allegedly operating illegally, on May 26, 2015. The district attorney’s office claimed the shop was “operating without proper permits to sell medical marijuana.”
DA insists raid was legal
The district attorney’s office insists the raid itself was legal and that the officers “legally disabled 16 surveillance cameras.” But they missed a “hidden four-camera system” that recorded their actions in the shop.
The officers then went into a break room and stole and ate several snacks that belonged to employees, “including Detour protein bars and Mrs. Thinsters cookies,” the district attorney’s office said. But video of the incident shows at least one officer reaching under the countertop and removing a marijuana edible – and then eating it.
As the crime unfolded, Sontag broke “five of the previously disabled surveillance cameras” by “banging and smashing the camera lenses,” causing about $500 in damage, according to the district attorney’s office. The cameras he missed were strategically hidden around the shop.
Cop caught on camera eating edibles
It’s unclear why the district attorney refused to charge the officers with stealing and using drugs in plain view of cameras. And while the charges may seem minor, the incident was anything but.
The footage shows the officers joking about kicking a blind woman with one leg “in her fucking nub.” The shop’s attorney released the footage in 2015 and said it clearly shows the officers ate cannabis edibles.
The lawyer, Matthew Pappas, stands by that allegation even after the district attorney’s office claimed there was “no evidence that any SAPD personnel consumed any edible marijuana items available at the dispensary.” It was unclear whether the officers took drug tests, but the video is clear: They stole and ate marijuana in plain view.
But Pappas agreed the charges were appropriate and a sign the district attorney is willing to punish the officers for breaking the law.
The Santa Ana Police Department has yet to fire the officers – even though they’ve been charged with breaking the law they swore to uphold. Instead, they were placed on paid administrative leave despite the marijuana charges. The officers were scheduled to appear for arraignment in April. No pleas had been entered as of mid March.
Watch the footage below.