A Long Beach marijuana dispensary alleges that police used excessive force against an employee during a raid last month. Now the attorney for the dispensary tells the Weekly it will file a claim against the city, with a subsequent lawsuit likely.
Long Beach police tell us a "thorough review" of the incident will be conducted.
Video released yesterday (after the jump) allegedly shows a Long Beach Police officer stepping on the neck of the shop worker and placing his full weight on him after he's already face down, for no apparent good reason:
The imagery also appears to show cops knocking out video cameras at the cannabis store. What cops didn't seem to know was that a remote, "off-site" recording device was capturing the action for perpetuity, even as video equipment in the store was apparently being seized and destroyed.
A lawyer for the THC Downtown Collective (aka "The Happyending Collective") alleged that excessive force and vandalism were the symptoms of that June 19 raid on the shop.
Mission Viejo attorney Matthew Pappas told us he'll also likely claim civil rights violations on the part of his client. A claim would be filed with Long Beach, but it would likely be denied, leading to a full-on suit, he said.
He says the raid is part of a longstanding spat between Long Beach dispensaries out of favor with Long Beach City Hall.
He claimed that every time a legal issue arose between the two, a raid happened. "The day of the raid on that collective I had called and notified the city of an ex parte hearing," Pappas said.
He also alleged that Long Beach officials were on the take in a situation he compared to similar allegations in the city of Cudahy:
It's just an ongoing escalating attack by people who I think are corrupt and are simply attempting to put out of business those collectives who have not paid them protection money. I was invited to talk to several FBI agents several months ago. I believe there is corruption in Long Beach.
According to the Long Beach Press-Telegram the raid happened only hours before the City Council was to consider a complete ban on pot shops.
Three employees and two security guards are arrested during the action, according to the paper. The Long Beach Police Department confirmed to us that five people were arrested. Spokeswoman Nancy Pratt told the Weekly the shop was "unpermitted."
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According to a statement from THC Downtown Collective, police allegedly destroyed video equipment only after realizing they were being recorded:
On this recording there are 3 officers asking 2 collective members to get down on their stomachs and place their hands on the floor. The only collective member that can be seen in the video is a young black male laying face down on the floor. As the three officers approach him from behind, the first officer goes to step over him but instead, steps upon the back of the young mans neck. The officer then pulls his arm back into a strained position. Afterwards the officer puts his knee onto the young mans back and with the help of the 2 other officers they proceed to cuff him. Minutes afterwards the officers notice that they are being videotaped and quickly smash the camera.
Stephen Downing, a former LAPD deputy chief who has become a marijuana decriminalization advocate, said of the raid:
This is a clear example of excessive use of force and vandalism ...
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Pappas said cops did have a search warrant for the June 19 action. Days later, police went back to THC and raided it again, he added.
Pratt of Long Beach police sent us this statement last night:
Today, the LBPD learned about a You Tube video posting in relation to the service of a search warrant on 6/19/12 at an unpermitted medical marijuana dispensary that resulted in the arrest of five male adults.
A thorough review into what occurred during that operation will be conducted once all of the facts have been collected.
This is a personnel matter and we are unable to discuss any further details.
The Long Beach Police Department takes any act or potential act of misconduct seriously.
Anyone who may have information regarding this incident should contact the Long Beach Police Department's Internal Affairs Division (562) 570-7343.