Update: June 12, 3 p.m.: The Weekly has obtained footage from the raid containing what seems to be a surprising anecdote from one of the officers onscreen regarding the judge who signed the search warrant. Hon. Jonathan Fish has been an Orange County Superior Court Judge since 2008, but before that he was a prosecutor with the district attorney's office who specialized in narcotics cases.
In the footage, an unidentified Santa Ana Police officer is talking to another cop as they wrap up their raid on the marijuana dispensary.
“You ever work with John Fish, the DA?” the officer asks.
“He was just in when I got there,” his partner responds.
“He's the judge that signed our warrant,” the first officer continues, adding that he had just spoken with Judge Fish and had enjoyed a good laugh with him about their old times together. “He's the fucker that pulled into a gas station on our way to the Staples Center and goes, “Let's buy some beers and drink 'em out of a red cup.' I go, 'That's not going to be obvious.' There we are at an am/pm getting styrofoam cups and pouring our beers into them. That fucking blew me away.”
The Weekly attempted to interview Judge Fish about the footage, but after describing it to his secretary at the North Justice Center in Fullerton, she placed the call on hold and then got back on the line. “He can't make any comment on it,” she said. “Sorry.” Then she hung up the telephone.
In an interview with the Weekly, SAPD Commander Revere said he hadn't seen the video footage containing the above conversation, but did confirm that all the officers he'd seen so far in the footage were indeed Santa Ana police department employees. Revere added that once the department had access to all the footage from the raid, it would be in a better position to determine if any wrongdoing had taken place.
“If they are doing anything else that involves misconduct, the chief will take the appropriate action,” Revere said. “I want to investigate: if it's an ugly baby, it's an ugly baby, let's move on. But it's frustrating when we get a little snapshot of an incident where we're not able to substantiate or corroborate anything either way. Hopefully, that won't be the case in this instance.”
Original Post: June 11, 12:21 p.m.: The Weekly has received footage from a recent marijuana dispensary raid that appears to show Santa Ana police officers eating pot candy and throwing darts after destroying–or so they thought–all the surveillance cameras inside the cannabis shop.
The video footage shows an officer stuffing something into his mouth and handing something to another cop, who asks him “What flavor?” The officers then laugh. The footage is too grainy to be certain that the item that the officer picks up from the counter of the cannabis shop is in fact a pot edible, although the behavior of the officers suggests this is the case.
Also in the footage: a female police officer joking that she wanted to kick Marla James–a marijuana activist and wheelchair-bound amputee who was present during the raid–in her “nub.”
Click through to see the video.
Yikes! Presumably, the police officers depicted in the video thought their actions and statements would not be recorded, but they were: the officers failed to remove all the secret cameras. Other footage obtained by the Weekly shows police officers, some of whom are wearing ski masks, battering down the dispensary's front door and then storming the establishment with guns drawn. The footage also shows the officers using a crowbar to dislodge various surveillance cameras and a DVR machine.
As the Weekly reported yesterday, a Superior Court judge has issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the city's Measure BB, which will allow some 20 dispensaries to operate legally in Santa Ana. The judge's order came in response to lawsuits filed by dispensaries that failed to win during the city's controversial Feb. 5 lottery process.
The May 26 raid depicted in the video–which led to a dozen arrests and shut down the Sky High Collective on 17th St.–is just one of numerous busts of dispensaries that failed to qualify in the ballot and which the city says are operating in violation of Santa Ana's current ban on marijuana dispensaries. James and her husband David told the Weekly that they were present at Sky High because their attorney, Matt Pappas, had learned the collective would be raided from Santa Ana's city attorney, Sonia Carvalho.”
“When they came back into the back room when David and I were, they asked us why we were there, and I told them we were there to observe them, the police,” James recalled. “And they were really surprised about that.” When James told the officers that “Sonia” had told her attorney about the raid, the officers didn't recognize the name. “They had no idea and it made them seem kind of stupid and maybe that's why they got mad.”
James struggled to understand why the female officer in the video would make fun of her disability.
“You know what, I was really nice to that woman,” James said. “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.”
Commander Chris Revere told the Weekly that he'd watched the footage, which he described as “edited” and “non-chronological.”
“Obviously we are concerned with what we see on the video,” Revere said. “We have initiated an internal affairs investigation. I'd like to see the unedited video to get a clearer picture of what is happening.”
Revere said he could not comment further on the video because the department's investigation was “ongoing.”
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).