Police in Orange County, Cal., are investigating the actions of a group of officers who raided a local medical marijuana dispensary wearing ski masks, joked about kicking a disabled dispensary worker, and allegedly ate marijuana candies they found in the shop.
The Santa Ana Police Department is disputing those allegations, but the department’s Internal Affairs division has launched an investigation.
The raid occurred at Sky High Collective of Santa Ana in mid June. One of the shop’s volunteer workers, Mary James, is blind and requires a wheelchair.
The officers quickly ordered the shop’s employees to the ground, then started dismantling the security system. But unbeknownst to them, there was a second, hidden camera that continued to capture their behavior.
Police missed the second camera
Once the visible cameras were gone, one of the officers asked another, “Did you punch that one-legged old Benita?” The other officer responded: “I was about to kick her in the fucking nub.”
James said she’s baffled and horrified by the exchange. She plans to sue the department over the raid and the video evidence, she said.
“How can I respect someone like that?” James said of the second officer. “It just makes your stomach turn. Maybe she doesn’t know what it’s like to have an amputation. I don’t know what was going through her head, but man that was disrespectful.”
Officer ate marijuana-infused food
Attorneys for the dispensary released additional secret video that appears to capture one of the officers eating food from the shelves. In the video, the officer carefully inspects a food item before unwrapping and eating it.
Santa Ana Police Commander Chris Revere insisted the video was altered, though he didn’t say how. He said the department was “concerned” about the allegations but doesn’t believe the officer ate actual cannabis.
“Obviously we’re concerned about what we saw in this edited video,” Revere said. “Any time we get an allegation or indication that our officers might be involved in misconduct, we want to make sure we conduct a thorough administrative investigation.
“Appropriate disciplinary recommendation”
“We expect our officers to hold themselves to a certain standard and represent the department and the profession well. If that wasn’t done in this case, it’s certainly something that, as part of the administrative investigation, the chief will make the appropriate disciplinary recommendation if it’s warranted.”
But James’ lawyer, Matthew Pappas, said it’s equally concerning that police would use so much force to raid a single, small cannabis collective – albeit one the police claim is illegal. His client’s lawsuit will cover all alleged misbehavior caught on the video, Pappas said.
James said she just wants to see all of the officers in the video disciplined for their actions.
“I think there’s some sensitivity training that needs to be done here,” she said.