Santa Ana to Pay $100,000 Settlement for Pot Shop Raid

Santa Ana city leaders have agreed to pay $100,000 and dismiss criminal charges to settle a lawsuit stemming from an infamous police department pot shop raid last year.

A video of the May 2015 raid went viral after it showed officers entering the Sky High Holistic dispensary with guns drawn, ordering occupants to the ground, and destroying a surveillance camera system.

A second hidden camera system then caught 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.

The hidden cameras also showed Officer Nicole Lynn Quijas saying she should have kicked a woman “in her fucking nob.” Before that comment, the video shows a scene of the same policewoman walking with a female amputee in a motorized wheelchair.

The woman in the wheelchair, Marla James, later filed a lawsuit against the city. Joining her was her husband David James, and Bradley Idelshon, a doctor whose office was near the dispensary and had its water and power cut during the raid.

Quijas and officers Brandon Matthew Sontag and Jorge Arroyo were eventually charged with theft for stealing protein bars and cookies from the shop. Sontag was also charged with vandalism for destroying the security cameras.

The settlement, which also included the dismissal of misdemeanor charges against Marla and David James, was authorized by the City Council during its Oct. 4 closed session, on a 5-0 vote with council members Sal Tinajero and Angelica Amezcua absent.

The decision, which wasn’t announced publicly by the city, was first reported this week by the Orange County Register.

City representatives would not comment on the settlement Thursday.

Joining Pappas in representing the plaintiffs was Jennifer McGrath, who served as Huntington Beach’s elected city attorney from 2002 to 2014.

Nick Gerda covers county government and Santa Ana for Voice of OC. You can contact him at

  • Michael Doss

    So destroying the cameras and recording devices is a crime, but NONE of the rest of those police officers stopped the officers charged with it? It’s not like they were doing it in secret. Every single one of the officers present should be fired and charged.

    One more thing I’ve never understood – why did the police go in with masks on? Is that standard protocol? If I was present, I would have assumed it was an armed robbery, not a police raid.

    This whole thing still stinks, a year later.

  • Ed Romero

    Too bad they didn’t raid the Orange County Probation Department at the same time. I remember that Asst. Chief Probation who had her very own Gang of Drug Dealers (all of them Probation Department Employees) making Drug Deliveries right into her Office while on duty. She Smoked so much Marijuana while on duty that all 5 floors of the Probation Department were saturated with Marijuana fumes, but why shouldn’t she, the Chief Probation Officer use to do the same at her residence in the City of Anaheim and NO ONE DID A THING ABOUT IT. No matter how many messages I sent both former Orange County Sheriff’s did NOTHING.

  • LFOldTimer

    To preempt any misconceptions….

    No, this does not come out of the police budget. It’s extracted from the pockets of the city taxpayers. The ones responsible for the transgressions are not financially responsible. Instead, the innocent taxpayers who had nothing to do with the raid get punished.

    And don’t expect the disclosure of additional evidence that led to the decision to settle, Mr. Taxpayer. That’s none of your business and will get buried as a result of the settlement. Just pay up. Taxpayers are better to be seen and not heard. And don’t expect public apologies either.

    Now run off to the stores and spend whatever little money you have left. Do some early holiday shopping. We need more of your taxes to pay these bills.

    • Paul Lucas