Brawl breaks out at conference of local California officials
A Commerce, Calif., official was hospitalized and another plans to press charges after a fight involving several Commerce city officials broke out at a conference.
The fight occurred on May 18 at the Renaissance Indian Wells Resort in Indian Wells, Calif., NBC Los Angeles reports. It took place at an annual seminar for local officials of cities that contract for public services, according to Los Angeles TV station ABC 7.
“It appears the altercation was related to personal matters between two council members from the same city,” reads a statement from the California Contract Cities Association, the advocacy group that held the conference, according to the Associated Press.
Officials disagree on what transpired, and the seven people involved in the altercation were described as “uncooperative” when Riverside County, Calif., sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene, according to CBS Los Angeles.
Commerce Mayor John Soria claimed in a statement that he was told about a heated exchange between Commerce Councilman Leonard Mendoza and Commerce Mayor Pro Tem Ivan Altamirano at the conference, the Los Angeles Times reports. When Soria found them, he saw Mendoza on the ground while apparently unconscious, and he noticed Altamirano standing nearby with a facial injury.
“Violence is never the answer, and as elected officials we are held to a higher standard,” Soria said, per NBC.
Commerce Councilman Hugo Argumedo claims he tried to help Mendoza, but that Altamirano threw a punch at him, according to ABC 7.
According to Soria, he tried to create space between Altamirano and a group of people that had gathered nearby, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. However, two people then attacked him and Altamirano from behind and punched them several times in the head, NBC reports.
Soria didn’t name those individuals but noted his intention to file a police report and to press charges, the Times reports.
“I want to be clear in condemning the violent behavior from the individuals who initiated these assaults,” Soria said, per the Times. “Once additional information is available, I intend to call on my council colleagues to take appropriate action regarding any individuals that represent the City of Commerce who were involved in the incident.”
However, Argumedo disputes parts of Soria’s story. “I speak only because I heard the mayor make complete false statements, and his statements were more to support the narrative that they want to push, which is wrong,” he said, per ABC 7.
Altamirano released a statement in which he calls Mendoza the physical aggressor, and that it wasn’t the first time he had felt threatened by the councilman, Palm Springs, Calif. TV station KESQ reports.
The city government itself commented briefly on the situation through a tweet: “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.”