Three police officers in Santa Ana, California, were charged on Monday with petty theft, nine months after being caught on camera allegedly stealing at a pot shop during a raid. Brandon Matthew Sontag, 31, Nicole Lynn Quijas, 37, and Jorge Arroyo, 32, each is charged with a misdemeanor count of petty theft. They raided Sky High Holistic along with several other officers on May 26, 2015.
Sontag, Quijas and Arroyo are accused of taking protein bars and cookies from the break room, eating them and handing them out to fellow officers, prosecutors said. Sontag was also charged with vandalism for allegedly smashing five security cameras.
Orange County prosecutors said the marijuana dispensary had 16 surveillance cameras that were shut down legally during the search, but there was a hidden four-camera system that continued to record the officers.
Marla James, a volunteer, said she was taunted by officers during the raid of the marijuana dispensary for operating without a permit. “We don’t want to see these people get fired. These are professionals, and they should be acting professional. They shouldn’t be playing darts. They shouldn’t stealing products,” James said.
“I’m happy they’re going to be held responsible to some degree,” dispensary volunteer David James said. The James were two of 13 people working in the store when the raid happened.
The dispensary is suing the officers, the Santa Ana Police Department and the city.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office said: “There was no evidence that any SAPD personnel consumed any edible marijuana items available at the dispensary.”
The dispensary’s attorney, Matthew Pappas, argued “For the district attorney, they simply don’t have sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that those were marijuana edibles. I still believe that they were.”
But he said the charges filed were one step in the right direction.
A Santa Ana police spokesperson said the department has co-operated fully with the investigation.
The officers, who are still out on paid leave, face up to six months in jail.