On June 20, more than a year after several Santa Ana Police officers were caught on video ransacking a marijuana dispensary, insulting a paraplegic patient and eating what appear to be pot edibles, three of the cops have pleaded not guilty to charges of petty theft and vandalism. Jorge Arroyo, Nicole Lynn Quijas and Brandon Matthew Sontag were each charged with petty theft back in March, with Sontag additionally accused of vandalism for destroying surveillance equipment inside the Sky High Holistic cannabis collective, which the police raided on May 26, 2015.
As the Weekly previously reported, the officers on the video apparently didn’t realize they were still being recorded after tearing apart the dispensary’s security cameras. But an additional set of cameras continued to roll as the officers inventoried the collective’s cannabis, joked about kicking Marla James, a wheelchair-bound amputee in her “nub,” threw darts at a wall, and munched on what appeared to be chocolate bars, which one officer said made him feel “kinda light headed.”
After a lawyer for the dispensary made the footage available to both the Weekly and the Voice of OC, the Sky High raid quickly became national news and the Santa Ana Police Department announced it was conducting an internal investigation of the incident. The officers were never drug tested, however, and the department concluded that, despite the stoner antics caught on tape, there was insufficient evidence to charge the cops with getting high on the job.
Prosecutors will now have to convince a jury that the officers are guilty of stealing “protein bars” and “cookies.” If convicted, the Sky High Trio faces between six months in jail (or more than a year in the case of Sontag, thanks for his camera-smashing). They will appear in court next month for a pre-trial hearing.
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).