California Public Officials Involved in Fight at Upscale Resort

By Zachary Stieber

Public officials in California were involved in a fracas at an upscale resort over the weekend in which one person was knocked unconscious, the city confirmed along with local law enforcement.

The brawl started shortly after midnight on May 18 at the Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa during the Contract Cities Association convention.

Seven people were part of the brawl, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department deputy Mike Vasquez told the Los Angeles Times. Officials tried identifying those involved but “none of them were cooperative,” said Vasquez.

City of Commerce Mayor John Soria admitted to being involved in the fight in a statement released the next day, claiming he and Commerce Mayor Pro Tem Ivan Altamirano were attacked by a group that included other elected officials.

Soria said that Altamirano and Councilmember Leonard Mendoza were having a heated conversation so he went to go calm them down when he saw Mendoza unconscious, apparently knocked out, and Altamirano with a noticeable injury to his head.

Soria said he was trying to keep people at a safe distance from Altamirano when two people attacked them.

“I know who the attackers are,” Soria said, but refused to identify them. He said he would file a police report with the sheriff’s department.

“Violence is never the answer, and as elected officials we are held to a higher standard,” he added.

In a statement released late Saturday, the city of Commerce said: “The City has been made aware of reports of a confrontation between some City officials that took place outside of the City’s jurisdiction. Given that, and the fact that the City is unclear on the specifics, the City has no further comment at this time.”

Altamirano’s attorney Mike Zeiback told the Orange County Register that his client’s lip was cut and that he required stitches. He said his client was attacked but would not answer when asked who hit who first.

Citing witnesses, the Times reported that the combatants included “political consultants, government vendors, and elected officials.”

At least one woman was screaming during the brawl.

“It was a hectic scene,” one witness said.

Mendoza told the Times that he was in a heated discussion with Altamirano when he asked him to step away.

“I asked him if he could step away, and he wouldn’t step back,” Mendoza said. “I guess he didn’t like that and it got heated and it got loud.”

Mendoza said he was hit from behind, and the next thing he knew, he was in a hospital bed.

“It must’ve been one of those things where I got knocked out with one punch,” he said.

A picture published by some news outlets showed Mendoza on the ground being attended to by a man and a woman.

Marcel Rodarte, the California Contract Cities Association’s executive director, told the Times that the group was investigating what happened and could suspend or ban some of the people involved in the brawl.