INDIAN WELLS (AP) — A brawl involving officials of a small Southern California city erupted at a weekend conference for local government officials, but what happened remained unclear Monday amid conflicting accounts.
The city of Commerce, a small municipality in Los Angeles County, tweeted that it had been made aware “of reports of a confrontation between some city officials that took place outside of the city’s jurisdiction” but had no further comment because it wasn’t clear what happened.
The fight occurred around 12:30 a.m. Saturday at the Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa in the Coachella Valley city of Indian Wells.
Riverside County sheriff’s Deputy Mike Vasquez told the Los Angeles Times seven people were involved in an “altercation and physical battery” and one person was hospitalized for minor injuries, but there were no arrests.
Commerce Mayor John Soria said in a statement to the Times that he went to defuse a potential conflict between two City Council colleagues, Leonard Mendoza and Ivan Altamirano.
Soria said he found Mendoza on the ground apparently unconscious and Altamirano standing nearby with a facial injury.
Soria said he and Altamirano were then attacked from behind by two individuals he did not name. Soria said he would press charges after a full law enforcement investigation.
Mendoza, who suffered cuts to the back of his head and face, told the Times he had a heated exchange with Altamirano when Altamirano interrupted a conversation. Mendoza said he then was struck from behind and awakened in a hospital.
Altamirano’s attorney, Mike Zweiback, told Southern California News Group his client was attacked but he declined to comment on who did it or why. Altamarino required stitches for a gashed lip, the lawyer said.
Councilman Hugo Argumedo told KABC-TV he heard Mendoza hit the ground and rushed over, only to have Altamirano come at him.
“I believe he threw a punch at me,” Argumedo said.
He also said the mayor was not telling the truth.
“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,” Argumedo told the station.
In his statement, Soria said he was “condemning the violent behavior from the individuals who initiated these assaults” and would ask council colleagues to “take appropriate action regarding any individuals that represent the City of Commerce who were involved in the incident.”
The California Contract Cities Association said in a statement that the incident took place after-hours and outside any programming of its annual municipal seminar.
“It appears the altercation was related to personal matters between two council members from the same city,” it said, adding that its executive board will review the facts and evaluate any possible disciplinary action which could include suspension or revocation of participation.
Commerce is 6.6-square-mile city with a population of just under 13,000. Soria is a civilian sheriff’s employee. Altamirano owns an air conditioning and heating repair business. Mendoza is a painter for a school district. Argumedo is a computer/network technician.