The record of harassment by Tustin police officers against members of the Sales family includes stops and car searches without a reasonable suspicion ever since they have been active in demanding justice for the death of Paul Quintanar, as result of a police foot chase in 2011.
The last episode in the story came in the form of what seems like an unlawful entrance into their residence by a group of officers on the night of May the 12th.
The Rebel Press spoke to Marie Sales, Paul Quintanar’s mother, who described the incident as recounted by her mom and others who were present at the time of the irruption.
“The cops did not have a warrant when they entered [the house]. They just barged in, they didn’t even knock.” Sales said. “They said they were looking for Carlos, (Marie’s brother) and that he didn’t follow their commands, so they just barged in, but Carlos wasn’t there; he doesn’t even live there.”
Some details are still unclear, but an earlier contact with Arthur Sales, another of Marie’s brother, appears to have initiated the encounter. Arthur had already been detained and handcuffed outside the house before the officers entered the residence.
The Rebel Press obtained a short video recorded inside the house by one of the occupants. In it, several voices can be heard asking to see a search warrant.
“You gotta […] the search warrant first.” Demands one of Marie’s nephews.
“Says who?” an unidentified female officer replies as though questioning the validity of the request.
“It says on the book. I know my rights.” He responds.
The officers then just keep saying the warrant is “on its way.”
After over an hour of search, in which even a battering ram was used to break down a door, the house was left upside down and with considerable property damages. A can with a photo of Quintanar that was used to collect donations for his funeral was also smashed.
“We had a can with the face of my son, the one who passed away, on it, and they smashed his face in.” Said Marie
Arthur Anthony Sales, the subject of the search warrant, was arrested for possession of “methamphetamines and paraphernalia associated with the sales of methamphetamines”, indicated as the items to be seized in the warrant that was finally presented when the officers were ready to leave.
“The warrant was stamped at 10:35pm that they called it in, and said that they not enter the house, but they entered before.” Observed Marie.
According to Marie, the supposed “drugs” and “paraphernalia” that were found in the house turned out to be the family’s medication and some rent money.
“They took my mom’s money [$300] and are trying to use it as sales money. They also took medication that we had. They took a lot of Arthur’s medication, they took medication from my mother’s purse; they emptied the bottles and then put them back in the purse.” She said.
“They’re trying to use my mom’s rent money to make a case on him. If they make a case on him, that’s a strike because they’re putting enhancements on him and I just found out that’s fifteen years to life [in prison].”
Last February, Arthur attended a Tustin council meeting as part of a demonstration in support of Leticia Villa, whose son Robert Villa had been killed by Tustin police officers just days prior. During the public comments session, Sales directed harsh criticism at both, Tustin Mayor Al Murray and TPD Chief, Charles Celano for mishandling cases of police brutality.
“I had your officers call me up on my cell phone to tell me ‘they shoot to kill. If they see you they’ll kill you.’ … I’ve had never gotten arrested with a gun; I have never committed a violent crime towards another person. So, why is it shoot to kill?... In the past two years can you tell me how many children or how many people have gotten killed by the police? Can you tell me?” asked Sales to Mayor Murray.
“Hey Chief, I know your new; get your shit together man!” He then said to a perplexed Chief Celano.
About two weeks after that, he got off a pending parole.
Other members of the family have also been harassed by some of the same officers that participated in the stop that ended with the death of their relative Paul Quintanar. Matt Roque, specifically, who chased Quintanar up a freeway access ramp.
“On his birthday, one of my nephews got stopped by Roque on Redhill [Ave.] two weeks ago my brother Carlos was stopped and searched by Roque on Red hill, and he also was at the search [in the house].” Recalled Marie.
Days after the incident, Carlos was stopped and his car searched again right after he had met with Sgt. Jeff Blair at the Tustin police station.
With all this deliberate intimidation against her family, Marie doesn’t trust the mechanisms offered by the legal system to try to hold the Tustin Police Department accountable.
“I have to figure out how to do a formal complaint, because if we just give [the complaint forms] to Blair, they’re just gonna rip ‘em up. They want the names; they want the addresses and phone numbers. If I give it to them, they’re gonna turn around and get back on us again”
“I already have litigation against the city of Tustin and I’m not gonna keep my mouth shut; I’m not gonna keep quiet.” She said.