A highly anticipated investigation of Santa Ana police officers who were suspected of stealing and eating marijuana edibles during a raid of a pot dispensary last spring found that — while they did steal protein bars and cookies — the food items were not laced with marijuana, according to a news release from the Orange County District Attorney’s office.
Officers Brandon Matthew Sontag, 31, Nicole Lynn Quijas, 37, and Jorge Arroyo, 32, were each charged with misdemeanor count of petty theft, the release states. Sontag was also charged with one misdemeanor count of vandalism under $400. Arroyo and Quijas face a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, while Sontag faces up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.
A video of the Santa Ana police raid on Sky High Holistic last May, first published by Voice of OC, showed officers joking around, throwing darts and munching on food items. The attorney for the dispensary, Matthew Pappas, claimed that the officers were eating marijuana-laced edibles and criticized them for destroying the shop’s surveillance equipment.
The video showed officers dismounting the equipment. They were apparently unaware that other cameras were still rolling.
At the time, Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas told Voice of OC that he had “concerns” about the behavior in the video and said he would launch an internal investigation of the incident.
According to the DA’s news release, the officers had disabled a 16-camera system but didn’t realize that a hidden four-camera system was still recording their activity. It said Sontag is accused of damaging “five of the previously disabled surveillance cameras by banging and smashing the camera lenses into the corner of a display case and cash register, and banging the cameras into the corner of a shelf and safe.” The cameras are valued at between $80 and $100 each.
As for the alleged theft of edibles, the news release claims that the officers stole Detour Simple protein bars and Mrs. Thinster cookies. They shared the snacks with other officers and also left the scene with “extra cookies.”
The news release states the DA’s office “conducted a thorough investigation” by interviewing multiple witnesses and reviewing over 16 hours of surveillance footage.
While the release claims there was “no evidence” that officers consumed marijuana edibles from the dispensary, it’s also silent on whether officers were drug tested.
Santa Ana police spokesman Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said the department would soon be releasing a statement. When asked whether the officers were drug tested, Bertagna’s initial response was he was unlikely to get into those details because it was a personnel matter and he was barred by law from disclosing anything.
“We’re not going to break the law to discuss personnel matters,” Bertagna said.
Bertagna also said the officers were on paid administrative leave pending the conclusion of an administrative appeal within the police department and separate from the criminal case.
“We take the conduct of our officers seriously and trust the integrity of the ongoing criminal and administrative appeal processes,” Bertagna said.
Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: @adamelmahrek