The victim of the recent alleged armed robbery Monday outside Denny's in Temecula said his medical marijuana, which was confiscated by police, needs to be returned.
The robbery was reported at about 8:17 p.m. Monday in the parking lot of Denny’s, 28915 Rancho California Road in Temecula, according to the Temecula Police Department. The victim proceeded to chase the suspects to Murrieta.
Following the pursuit, which ended on Interstate 15 near California Oaks Road in Murrieta, the robbery victim’s medical marijuana was confiscated by deputies, according to a law firm representing him.
The Riverside County Sheriff's Department, which the City of Temecula contracts with for police services, says the medical marijuana was lawfully seized.
"The marijuana was taken for evidentiary reasons as it is a ‘fruit of the crime,'" said Riverside County Sheriff's Department Spokesperson Sgt. Lisa McConnell.
The law firm representing the victim disagrees.
“There are no longer operational collectives in the Temecula, Murrieta and other surrounding areas at this time,” said Sergio Sandoval, spokesperson for Pappas Law Group. “In response to the sudden closures of these collectives, this collective has been operating a delivery service to provide safe and timely administration of medication to his patients. During a routine delivery process...this managing patient was robbed at gunpoint."
After he was allegedly robbed, the victim's pursuit of the victims wound north on Interstate 15, then through Murrieta neighborhoods and eventually ended when the suspects crashed into an embankment.
Responding Temecula police officers apprehended one of the suspects, Eduardo Torres, of Murrieta at the crash site, according to the report from police. Another suspect, Johnny Nie, also of Murrieta was located and arrested shortly thereafter.
Sandoval’s complaint is that as the suspects were taken into custody, the victim’s medical marijuana was also confiscated.
“The police confiscated the patient group's medication that the managing patient had with him for delivery to patient members. They have now refused to return that medication despite state law—specifically the case of Kha v. City of Garden Grove—that requires the return of that medication so it can be provided to patients,” Sandoval said.
He went on to say the robbery victim was not arrested or charged with a crime “because he complies fully with state law.”
While the robbery took place in Temecula, the victim is affiliated with a dispensary—Diamond Star Remedies—that was recently shut down by the city of Murrieta.
City bans on medical marijuana dispensaries and collectives—such as those in place in Temecula and Murrieta—lead to these type of incidents, he said.
“The actions...that led to this unnecessary robbery because it forced closure of the collective combined with the...refusal to return the medication highlights the discrimination that is taking place against patients whose doctors have recommended medical marijuana,” Sandoval said.
The evidence collected in this case, however, must be kept until the suspects are prosecuted, according to the Sheriff's Department.
“...The case is still an open investigation,” McConnell said. “The (armed robbery) portion has been referred to the District Attorney’s office for prosecution...We are required by the DA’s office to retain custody of all evidence in a case until the case is adjudicated and the evidence in the case is no longer needed.”
Further, McConnell said in reviewing Kha v. City of Garden Grove, the circumstances do not apply to this investigation.
“In that case, there was no need to retain the marijuana as there were no criminal proceedings,” McConnell said. “In this case, there are criminal proceedings. The marijuana in this case is a fruit of the crime and will be needed to appropriately prosecute the suspects.”