Updated March 17. 2018 with photos of Williams' injuries and quote from his wife, courtesy of Candid Chronicle.
By Miriam Raftery
March 14, 2018 (Lemon Grove) – Last week, the San Diego Reader published an article revealing that a claim has been filed against the City of Lemon Grove by Christopher Williams. Williams, who has applied to open medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, seeks punitive damages and medical costs resulting from what he alleges was an assault by Councilman David Arambula. Now Councilman Matt Mendoza is calling for an investigation.
The city has denied the claim and Arambula, in an extensive interview with East County Magazine, says he acted in self-defense after Williams attacked him. The claim lists Mayor Racquel Vasquez and Tiesha [sic] Brown as potential witnesses.
Mendoza, a Republican, contends that Arambula and Vasquez, both Democrats, did not disclose the incident that allegedly occurred July 15, 2017 to fellow Councilmembers. He says Brown is a county Democratic Party executive board member; a Taisha Brown is listed on the board.
ECM called the number listed for Brown on the claim formbut she replied, “I don’t have anything to say about this,” then hung up. The Mayor did not return our calls. Arambula said both were present with himself and Williams earlier in the evening, but that the two women left before the physical altercation.
According to the complaint, which ECM received a copy of from Williams' attorney, Cory J. Briggs, the incident occurred on July 15, 2017. Williams claims Arambula invited him to his home to discuss his application. According to Williams, Arambula was “drinking heavily” and when Williams looked at his phone to schedule an Uber ride, “Arambula, unprovoked, hit me in the head with a bottle and bit/kicked/punched/choked me.”
Williams claims to have suffered a serious laceration over his eye, a bite wound, and broken rib among other injuries, causing pain, suffering and lost work. He contends Arambula committed “assault and battery against me.” He was reportedly treated at Alvarado Hospital.
His wife, Kathleen McClean, took photos the night of the incident, according to the Candid Chronicle, a cannabis publication for which she has written. (photos, left and right, courtesy of Candid Chronicle)
According to an article in the publication by Cara Anderson, McClean stated, "I thought he had been in a car accident when he got home, I saw blood all over his face and open wounds. I had no choice but to drive him to the hospital.”
Arambula tells a very different version of the events. He says he didn’t invite Williams to his home and contends he was asked by Brown to meet with Williams because “he wanted to invest in Lemon Grove. I reluctantly agreed,” Arambula told ECM, adding that he hoped to learn about potential economic development. He says he’s met others at his home because “We don’t have a big city hall” in Lemon Grove.
Williams and Brown arrived separately and according to Arambula, Williams brought a bottle of wine and a bottle of hard liquor. Arambula says he drank only one glass of wine all evening and that Williams was the one who drank heavily and was too impaired to drive home.
Arambula says that as soon as he learned Williams wanted to open multiple dispensaries in Lemon Grove, “I told him it’s improper to discuss that with him…I told him to go through the process and applications.” He says his abrupt response “didn’t sit well” with Williams. “I wanted to extract myself out of this…I was in shorts, so I went to the backyard and jumped in the pool…I could see he kept drinking, shaking his head…I saw Taisha on the phone….then Racquel came over.”
He says he says when the Mayor arrived, Williams made a beeline for her and he saw the Mayor repeatedly shaking her head, “No, no, no. She came out to the patio and said `What the heck is going on?’ I said I don’t want anything to do with this. She said `I don’t either.” Arambula says he doesn’t believe the Mayor knew the purpose of the meeting, and that he doubts she would have come over if she’d known Williams wanted to discuss his dispensary applications.
“Racquel said `I’m out of here.’ So did Taisha…I said someone needs to take this guy out of here – he’s drunk, he’s belligerent…he shouldn’t drive.” He says he went to take a shower after his swim, and after coming out, Brown and the Mayor told him that “Uber should be here in a few minutes.”
Arambula claims that after the women left, Williams insisted he had to do what he was asking. “I told him this was the end of this conversation.” Next, Arambula says Williams grabbed his shirt and started wrestling him. “I told him `get your hands off me.’” He says he tried to push Williams off but couldn’t. “Then he reaches back with one hand as though he’s going to hit me…he cocked back, ready to knock me out. I had to defend myself.”
He says he punched Williams for about 30 seconds in the chest or stomach but “he kept coming….each time I’m telling him stop, get out of my house.” Arambula denies hitting Williams with a bottle but admits that after Williams used a chokehold “I had to bite him…he looked dazed. I grabbed him by the belt loop and took him out of the house, put him on the sidewalk, closed and locked the gate, came in the house and locked the door.” He says he called one of the two women and told them what happened, then asked them to pick up Williams who was “intoxicated, bleeding...”
Arambula says he did not call the Sheriff’s department, hoping Williams would “sleep it off, apologize.” He adds that Williams came to the next Council meeting. “I thought he learned his lesson…not to touch an elected official, much less an ex-Marine.” He claims he was surprised to read in the Reader article that a police report was apparently filed at the hospital and that no law enforcement officer ever spoke with him to hear his side of the story.
“My fiancé has stage four cancer,” Arambula adds. “That’s really consumed all my time.”
Williams subsequently had two proposals for dispensaries come before the Council, one of which Arambula says was denied because it was too close to a church daycare center. The other was approved because it met the city’s requirements.
Court records indicate no prior criminal records in San Diego County for the names Christopher Williams nor David Arambula. An attorney with whom Arambula, a graduate of Cal Western school of law, previously worked did file for a restraining order, alleging that Arambula had threatened her, but that restraining order was denied by a judge on July 6, 2017.
Asked about that incident, Arambula claimed he’d been helping the woman, a former friend, establish a law practice and that they had agreed she would pay him a percentage of fees on a referral basis. Arambula says he discovered the woman had been hiding billings and owed him “hundreds of thousands of dollars.” He claims that after he confronted her, she concocted a false claim alleging he had threatened her. He added that he intends to file suit to recover the funds.
After learning of Williams’ claim against the city, which also names Arambula and the Mayor, Councilman Matt Mendoza sent a letter to the city attorney and city manager requesting that an investigation be opened regarding the incident.
Mendoza says he learned of the incident’s details from newspaper accounts in the Reader and the San Diego Union-Tribune. Mendoza told East County Magazine, “I would like to hear the witnesses, too, to hear the truth.” He wants to know why he was kept in the dark until the claim was filed months later. “It was swept under the rug,” he contends. “When you’re a city councilman, there’s been drinking, you bloody the guy up or vice versa…I would call the police just to let them know what happens. You’re a city official; you’ve got to stay on the up and up.”
The City sent Briggs a letter on February 26th confirming that Lemon Grove denied Williams’ claim on February 20th, when it was voted upon under the consent calendar by the Council. No reason for the denial was provided.
Williams has six months from the Feb. 26 letter to file suit in Superior Court, if he chooses to pursue his legal claim.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Arambula is an attorney. He is a graduate of Cal Western School of Law, but is not a licensed attorney.