Fight Breaks Out Between Southern California Officials at Annual Retreat

A conference of local southern California government officials briefly turned violent over the weekend after several attendees became involved in a fight that resulted in at least one man being knocked unconscious, according to reports from the scene.

Authorities say the brawl broke out at around 12:30 a.m. early Saturday morning during an annual seminary of the California Contract Cities Assn. between members of the Commerce City Council and other public officials, according to a written statement about the incident from the Mayor of Commerce, John Soria.

Soria says he became aware of an "elevated" conversation between City of Commerce Mayor Pro Tem Ivan Altamirano and Councilmember Leonard Mendoza at the meeting being held at the Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa and attempted to intervene to defuse any "potential conflict." Soria writes that when he arrived, he discovered City of Commercial councilmember Leonard Mendoza on the ground, apparently unconscious and the Mayor Pro Tem, Ivan Altamirano standing nearby with a facial injury.

"A group of individuals had gathered and were attempting to render aid to Mr. Mendoza," Soria wrote in a statement released Monday morning. "I immediately attempted to deescalate the situation by establishing a safe distance between people standing in the area and Mr. Altamirano. Within seconds Mr. Altamirano and I were attacked from behind by two individuals."

Soria says he and Altamirano were both knocked to the ground by his attackers, who continued their assault on him. The Mayor of Commerce says he was punched "several times on the head and face" from which he sustained "multiple injuries."

It wasn't until Soria's wife and some other friends intervened that they were able to pull the mayor to a safe distance from the two attackers.

At least seven people were involved in the melee at the resort, according to the Los Angeles Times. A photo circulating among politicians appeared to show Councilmember Mendoza lying on the floor amid blood at his feet. Another man can be seen checking his pulse in the photo. It's unclear who or how the fight may have started in the first place.

The City of Commerce released a statement on Twitter announcing that city officials had become involved in a confrontation outside the city's jurisdiction.

"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."

Soria wrote that he plans to file a police report with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department and intends to press chages against his attackers. The mayor says he knows who assaulted him, but refused to name them out of courtesy to the sheriff's department's investigation into the incident.

"While all the facts of these related incidents are not yet known, I want to be clear in condemning the violent behavior from the individuals who initiated these assaults," Soria said in his statement. "Violence is never the answer, and as elected officials we are held to a higher standard. Unfortunately, several individuals clearly did not live up that standard during this incident. Such behavior is unacceptable and is an embarrassment to the people of Commerce and Southeast Los Angeles."

"The stakeholders in our community deserve better," Soria added.

Photo: Getty Images

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