For several hours on May 26, 2015, a group of Santa Ana police officers were caught on secret cameras inside the Sky High Holistic marijuana dispensary eating what appeared to be pot edibles, joking about being stoned, throwing darts, insulting a paraplegic activist, and otherwise betraying their sworn oaths as peace officers. The cops had just raided the dispensary and, after attempting to destroy all the video cameras, engaged in the above conduct, the video footage of which were leaked to Voice of OC and OC Weekly—and from there went viral, leading to international headlines and a major headache for the Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD).
At first, the officers were placed on leave while SAPD’s internal affairs division began its investigation. The city eventually dropped all charges against the dispensary workers who were arrested during the raid and paid a $100,000 settlement to the shop’s owner. By the time the Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) pressed charges of vandalism and petty theft against three of the cops, the SAPD claimed the trio were no longer working at the department. It appears this was the result of efforts by then-SAPD chief Carlos Rojas to fire the officers. But now, it’s Rojas who no longer works at the department, having allegedly been forced out by Mayor Miguel Pulido and the police officers union.
Meanwhile—drum roll, please—according to Cpl. Anthony Bertagna, an SAPD spokesperson, all three of the criminal cops are now officially back on the job. As part of a plea agreement reached with the OCDA and announced in a press release yesterday, the cops—Jorge Arroyo, 34, Nicole Lynn Quijas, 39, and Brandon Matthew Sontag, 33—admitted to committing petty theft and vandalism during the raid. In return, Arroyo and Quijas—who each were charged with one misdemeanor count of petty theft—were sentenced to perform 40 hours of community service and must pay $200 toward the county’s victim witness emergency fund. Sontag, who was charged with one misdemeanor count of petty theft and one misdemeanor count of vandalism under $400, must perform 80 hours of community service and pay the cost of the damaged property as well as $200 to the victim witness emergency fund.
The OCDA press release states that the petty theft which took place involved the eating of “protein bars” in an employee break room. “There was no evidence that any SAPD personnel consumed any edible marijuana items available at the dispensary,” the agency’s press release states.
Oh really? You can make up your own mind by watching the video footage yourself below. Besides the cops acting stoned, you can also see their supervisor bragging about how he used to go drunk driving back in the day with the judge who signed their search warrant for the raid. Stay classy, Santa Ana!
Award-winning investigative journalist Nick Schou is Editor of OC Weekly. He is the author of Kill the Messenger: How the CIA’s Crack Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb (Nation Books 2006), which provided the basis for the 2014 Focus Features release starring Jeremy Renner and the L.A. Times-bestseller Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love’s Quest to bring Peace, Love and Acid to the World, (Thomas Dunne 2009). He is also the author of The Weed Runners (2013) and Spooked: How the CIA Manipulates the Media and Hoodwinks Hollywood (2016).