SANTA ANA – Three Santa Ana police officers pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges and were sentenced to community service in connection with a pot shop raid caught on surveillance video in 2015.
Officers Jorge Arroyo, 34, Nicole Lynn Quijas, 39, and Brandon Sontag, 33, were seen on security video eating snacks while serving a search warrant at Sky High Holistic, a marijuana dispensary on 17th Street in Santa Ana, in May 2015. The video also shows two of the officers making disparaging remarks about a disabled woman who was a shop volunteer.
When the footage was first released by the dispensary’s lawyer, some thought the officers were eating marijuana edibles, but prosecutors on Wednesday said the items were protein bars and cookies, and that there was no evidence that officers consumed any marijuana products.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office filed misdemeanor petty theft charges against the trio. Sontag was also charged with vandalism for breaking some of the store’s surveillance cameras.
On Tuesday, Arroyo and Quijas both pleaded no contest in Orange County Superior Court to one misdemeanor count of petty theft and were sentenced to 40 hours of community service. In a no contest plea, the defendant does not admit guilt.
Sontag pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor count each of petty theft, and vandalism under $400. He was sentenced to 80 hours of community service and ordered to pay full restitution.
Prosecutors said Sontag damaged five of the shop’s surveillance cameras, each valued between $80 and $100, by banging and smashing the lenses. Prosecutors said Sontag and Quijas entered the break room and each took a protein bar.
All three officers ate the protein bars, while Quijas and Arroyo took cookies with them when they left, prosecutors said.
In the aftermath, then-Chief Carlos Rojas fired the trio, but all three have since been reinstated, authorities said. Sontag sued to get his job back and was reinstated by a judge this year while his case is pending. Arroyo and Quijas appealed their terminations and were reinstated in a settlement with the city.
At the time, the pot shop was accused of operating without a license. It remains open.
The city last year agreed to pay Sky High Holistic $100,000 to settle a federal lawsuit in connection with the raid and to dismiss misdemeanor charges against a dozen people accused of unlawfully operating the dispensary.
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