Three Santa Ana police officers involved in an infamous pot shop raid – video of which went viral last year – no longer work for the department, officials say.
The three former officers – Nicole Lynn Quijas, Brandon Matthew Sontag, and Jorge Arroyo – had been charged in March with misdemeanor petty theft for stealing protein bars and cookies from the shop during the May 2015 raid. Sontag was also charged with misdemeanor vandalism for destroying security cameras at the dispensary, Sky High Holistic, during the raid.
The officers were fired a few weeks after the charges were filed, according to Nick Schou of the OC Weekly, who broke the news last week.
Cpl. Anthony Bertagna, a spokesman for the police department, declined to confirm or deny whether the officers were fired, saying only that “they’re no longer employed by the city of Santa Ana.”
A video of the Santa Ana police raid showed officers joking around, throwing darts and munching on food items. The attorney for the dispensary, Matthew Pappas, claimed the officers were eating marijuana-laced edibles and criticized them for destroying the shop’s surveillance equipment.
An investigation by District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ office determined that the officers disabled a 16-camera system but didn’t realize that a hidden four-camera system was still recording their activity. Prosecutors accused Sontag 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.”
But the DA investigation found “no evidence” that the food they took was laced with marijuana. The officers pled not guilty in the criminal case.
However, according to the Weekly’s reporting, the three officers were never drug tested.
Bertagna said he didn’t know if drug tests were performed and that he wouldn’t be able to discuss it. “We don’t discuss personnel matters,” he said.
At the time criminal charges were filed against the officers, Bertagna said the officers were on paid administrative leave pending the conclusion of an administrative appeal within the police department.
Bertagna said the officers received pay for any unused holiday time, vacation time, or other cashable credits that they accrued over years, but did not receive any other payments.
Nick Gerda covers county government and Santa Ana for Voice of OC. He can be reached at email@example.com.