Around 10 p.m. on March 16, Jose Arreola walked into an Orange County service station, retrieved $60 from an ATM, then a pack of Mentos mints at his wife’s request. He didn’t know that the purchase of a $1.19 candy would leave him near gunpoint, at the mercy of an off-duty police officer.
Video footage caught Arreola, 49, paying for the pack of mints. He twiddled his goatee, awaiting his change after handing the cashier $20. After a few moments, he reached for and pocketed the candy, which is expected when the barter is practically complete. In the middle of this transaction, a man walked in behind Arreola, clad in dark shorts and a dark hoodie, thumbing money and a bit aloof. But when he saw Arreola put the roll of mints in his pocket, his gun was erect and pointed toward the ground, though his index finger rested on the trigger.
The cop, who has remained unnamed, reached for his pistol. “Put that back… police officer.” Arreola, visibly shaken up, tried to explain that he’d paid for the mints but the cop was persistent. Arreola set the candy down. “I just paid for this!” he said. The officer then began a conversation with the cashier, verifying that Arreola paid for the candy. When the cashier said that he’d paid, he told Arreola to “take [his] cash and leave.” He did as he was told, sans the Mentos. While he was making his exit, the officer asked the cashier whether he was sure that Arreola paid. He apologized when he was convinced that it was true.
The footage, almost seven weeks old, recently surfaced. “It’s been a month and I still can’t shake it,” Arreola told the OCR. “It was traumatic, the whole incident. (And) I grew up in Santa Ana. I’ve been shot at before.” Arreola recalled that he thought his wife would be a widow.
Buena Park Police Chief Corey Sianez called the event “disturbing.” “I can definitely assure you that our investigation will be thorough, and if the officer is found to be in violation of any policies and procedures, he will be held accountable,” he said. An internal investigation is reportedly underway.
The circumstances under which an officer draws a gun are once again called into question. If stealing candy calls for a gun, what should one expect for a more severe, though comparatively insignificant crime? “He was so adamant about treating me like a criminal,” Arreola said.
In an interview, Arreola said that a sorry wasn’t enough, Mercury News reports. He’s since gotten an attorney, planning to receive financial damages from the Buena Park Police Department.