2 street vendors arrested after health inspection turns violent in El Monte
Two street food vendors were arrested in El Monte after a health code compliance check devolved into a brawl over the weekend, authorities said.
After multiple complaints of unpermitted food vending, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and El Monte police were dispatched to a taco stand at Valley Boulevard and Mountain View.
Investigators and officers arrived at the pop-up food tent around 8:30 p.m. Saturday to conduct a compliance check, officials said.
Health department officials said in a statement that some of the vendors became physically aggressive during the interaction, kicking one of the inspectors.
Videos of the scuffle posted on social media show a chaotic scene, with several bystanders screaming and taking cellphone videos. In one video posted on Instagram, several police officers crash into a table and then onto the ground while trying to restrain a man.
Another video posted by the same account briefly shows what appears to be a woman being pinned on the ground. A woman standing in the foreground can be heard shouting: “You cannot do this,” and later, “You’re hurting her.”
Lt. Peter Rasic said that when police tried to separate the vendors from the inspectors, an officer was assaulted.
Police arrested Fermin Martinez, 30, and Silvia Aguilar, 37, at the scene on suspicion of assault, Rasic said.
Police did use force during the arrests, El Monte Chief David Reynoso said in a statement, but no serious injuries resulted.
“Intervention by El Monte police was necessary to keep the peace and protect county employees,” Reynoso said.
Unpermitted food vending is a violation of the California health and safety code, county health department officials said.
Food at these locations could be prepared without handwashing or basic food-handling practices, “putting consumers at an elevated risk of foodborne illness,” the health department said in statement.
“In many cases, the vendors are also violating the current health officer order requiring masking, distancing and additional infection control to prevent transmission of COVID-19,” county officials said.
The majority of bystanders in the videos appear to be wearing masks. At least one police officer is seen not wearing a mask.
The El Monte Police Department has launched an investigation into the incident and is looking into “the actions of all involved parties,” authorities said. Body camera footage and social media posts that captured the interaction will be reviewed.
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