Three of the Santa Ana, California, police officers caught eating what appears to be marijuana edibles and making fun of an amputee after raiding a dispensary have been officially charged with vandalism and petty theft. It’s a fate that the Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD), which insists they were eating protein bars, was hoping to avoid.
Among those charged are 31-year-old Brandon Matthew Sontag, 37-year-old Nicole Lynn Quijas, and 32-year-old Jorge Arroyo, according to a press release from the district attorney. Quijas and Arroyo, both charged with one misdemeanor count of vandalism, could spend six months in jail. Sontag, who is also charged with vandalism for destroying the security cameras, faces a year and a half.
Originally posted in June, the video shows the officers bursting into the Sky High Holistic marijuana dispensary in Santa Ana, wearing masks and donning guns. Next, they are shown disabling security cameras one at a time, one of which they appear to break with a crowbar. Later, while crowded around display cases of cannabis, they discuss edibles—with one officer asking if it’s just a big “hit.”
Eventually three are seen passing a candy bar between them. When one asks, “What flavor is it?” laughter erupts in the room, where another officer is playing darts.
The most egregious part of the video, which the SAPD claims was “heavily edited,” comes when the female officer is asked about Marla James, a marijuana activist who was present at the dispensary when they arrived. “I was about to kick her in her [expletive] nub,” the officer says, another comment that is followed by laughter. James, who recounted her story to OC Weekly, was sitting with her husband in the back office of Sky High Holistic when the police arrived.
“David and I were observing in one of the collectives,” James said. “We were actually there to observe a raid. We knew the raid was going to happen. We were there to make sure that the employees did not offer resistance. We had trained them what to do, which was not to talk and do exactly what the police told them to do.”
When James told them she couldn’t get on the floor because of her amputated leg, they asked her to put her hands in the air. Due to her rheumatoid arthritis, James had to refuse—something that evidently angered the cops. James was shocked by the treatment she received, especially given how she treated the cops herself. “You know what, I was really nice to that woman,” James told OC Weekly. “I even complimented her on her hair. I treated that woman with respect and I have no idea why she wanted to kick my stump.”
According to the DA’s investigation, the officers were raiding the dispensary for operating without a proper license, which earned them a search warrant. The dispensary had a 16-camera security system, visible on one screen, all of which the officers disabled. Unknown to the officers, there was also a hidden four-camera system that remained filming.
While the DA’s office addresses the damage Sontag caused to the cameras, it concluded that there was “insufficient evidence that they knew the food items belonged to the dispensary and not their fellow officers or that SAPD personnel consumed any edible marijuana items available at the dispensary.”
Matt Papas, the attorney representing James, dismissed that defense, saying that it was obvious what the police were doing. “One of them talks about the candy bar, the edible, and says he’s starting to get light-headed,” Papas told local news. “That would indicate to me that they’re eating marijuana edibles. They’re sitting right near a safe... where the edibles are located.”
The three officers are scheduled for arraignment on April 11 in Santa Ana.
The SAPD declined the opportunity to comment.