Brandon Matthew Sontag, 31, Nicole Lynn Quijas, 37 and Jorge Arroyo, 32, were all charged with one misdemeanor count each of theft for their roles in the May 2015 raid at Sky High Holistic in Santa Ana, according to a news release issued by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
In addition to taking part in petty theft, Sontag was also charged with vandalism in connection with the destruction of five security cameras inside the facility by smashing them into a display case or cash register, prosecutors said. The cameras were valued at $80 to $100 each.
The collective previously filed a federal lawsuit accusing the officers of using excessive force during the raid last year. A video of the incident released last year showed officers entering the collective, playing darts and eating food that belonged to the staff.
Prosecutors claim that the officers did not eat any edible cannabis products during the raid, though they did take a number of snacks that belonged to the staff. Attorneys for Sky High Holistic disagree. Captions from hidden cameras that were not detected or destroyed by Officer Sontag clearly show the team of police making remarks that allude to ingesting cannabis edibles. According to attorney Matthew Pappas, “One of them talks about the candy bar, the edible, and says he’s starting to get light-headed. That would indicate to me that they’re eating marijuana edibles. They’re sitting right near a safe . . . where the edibles are located,” Pappas said in July.
Aside from the undisputable theft, the officers grossly mistreated a disabled volunteer/patient. “I had asked [the officers] to show me a search warrant for breaking down our door and coming in with guns drawn a couple of times,” said Marla James. “They never did.” After the police escorted everyone in the collective outside, they demanded that James sign a ticket. But when James, who is legally blind, expressed to the officer that she can’t read, a female cop allegedly responded, “Well you made it outside in your wheelchair,” and proceeded to force James to sign the ticket. “It was the first time in my entire life that I felt really handicapped,” she said. At the time, James had no idea what other horrible things had been said about her by those whose duty it is to protect and serve. However, the officers’ actions were recorded by four hidden surveillance cameras that were not discovered during the raid. One of the more despicable exchanges between officers was: “Did you punch that one-legged old Benita,” a male officer asks a female officer, apparently referring to James.
“I was about to kick her in her (expletive) nub,” the female officer replies, according to subtitles on the video.
There is speculation that the reason such low level charges are being pursued against the officers is because if they are convicted, even though the crimes are small, it will make it easier for the officers to be fired. Stayed tuned to IReadCulture.com for updates.