Craig Hunter: The Beatings, the Whistleblower and the Cover-up

Should Orange County replace Mike Carona with another cop tainted by the stench of abuse and cover up?

Let’s take a look at the career history of Anaheim Deputy Chief Craig Hunter. Back in his day as the head of the gang unit, Craig earned himself the nickname “Head Hunter”, and it wasn’t for respecting the rights of those he served.

The Beatings

Court testimony indicates that Craig Hunter was involved in several senseless beatings of handcuffed teenage suspects after they were safely in police custody. There were two incidents involving Hunter on court record from the 90’s:

The first beating was 16-year-old robbery suspect named Jorge Alvarado. After arrest, the kid was turned over to two of Craig Hunters’ gang unit officers John Kelley and Mike Bustamante for a ride to the station. By the time they arrived at the station, the suspect had been severely beaten. When the witnessing officer complained to the unit commander, Craig Hunter, he was told to shut up.

Another beating happened a few months later after a teenage suspect named Jerry Sanchez was captured on the roof of an apartment by officers Craig Hunter and John Kelley. In testimony that we just received, officer Steve Nolan claims that “Craig Hunter actually cracked Jerry over the head with his flashlight while Kelly kicked him as he lied on the ground”. Later, while the suspect was bleeding severely from the head, Hunter and his partner allegedly taunted Sanchez in a stereotyped Latino accent.

In a later interview, the youth said “I was handcuffed, then hit in the head with a metal flashlight and kicked. I was bleeding all over and felt dizzy and dazed. My whole shirt was bloody.” The suspect’s account of the beating matched officer Nolan’s claims.

The Whistleblower

Officer Steve Nolan claimed to witness both beatings. He was so appalled at Craig Hunter’s behavior that he finally reported both incidents to a superior.

In response, Hunter launched an all-out assault to discredit Steve Nolan. False accusations were made against him, which were later rejected by an arbiter and then a jury. Nolan eventually won a $340,000 lawsuit against Hunter and the department for wrongful termination.

During the arbitration, the whistleblower received anonymous death threats from what he believed to be his former coworkers at the Anaheim Police Department. Shortly after he filed the lawsuit, someone shot at his wife while she was driving down the freeway near Anaheim.

Were Craig Hunter and his officers retaliating against the whistleblower for breaking the infamous code of silence? The jury said “yes”.

The Cover-up

After the allegations of police abuse surfaced, the department was forced to launch an internal investigation.  As expected, the department soon announced that all officers involved were innocent.

"Well done, Sir."

So why did the young suspects so frequently arrive at the station bloodied and bruised?

The internal investigators were never able to solve that mystery. In the age before in-car cameras and personal recording devices, officer oversight in the Anaheim PD was lax. Allegations of suspect abuse were frequently shoved under the rug, according to a local civil rights group called United Neighbors, an activist group that formed in response to the allegations of police brutality.

In the wake of the scandal, Hunter’s department was subjected to investigations by both the US. Commission on Civil Rights and the US Department of Justice. With the feds breathing down his neck, Craig Hunter orchestrated “the biggest cover-up I’ve seen in my life”, according to officer Nolan. The feds were never able to gather enough evidence to file charges against Hunter, although California Supreme Court Justices eventually acknowledged that Nolan had brought to light a legitimate problem within the Anaheim PD.

In the end, the whistleblower was threatened, intimidated and pushed out of the department, eventually moving on to become the Mayor of Corona. Meanwhile, the accused officers were promoted up the chain of command at the Anaheim Police Department. One of those officers was Deputy Chief Craig Hunter, and now he wants to be the elected Sheriff of Orange County.

45 Replies to “Craig Hunter: The Beatings, the Whistleblower and the Cover-up”

  1. Travis,
    Amazing post!

    (personal experience) Certain key detective(s) from Anaheim were hired by the D.A.’s Office as investigators. Among the cases that they reviewed were allegations of various criminal acts under the color of authority (cops beating prisoners to get info – not to mention the drugs and sexual favors). Interesting that one of the APD officers investigated was named above by a former (unnamed) APD gang unit detective!

    Based on the investigators and detectives I know and knew as well as certain work experience with these people, I have to agree with the bulk of your post. Although I don’t have tangible proof (take it for what it’s worth), I witnessed much of it.

    I know it took a lot of courage to put your post up and I applaud your grit. Thank you!!!

  2. Your post says Nolan said that Hunter cracked the guy on the head with a flashlight.

    The Weekly article you linked to says Nolan said it was Kelley who hit the guy o the head with a flashlight.

    Which is it?

  3. The quote is an exact reprint of a written statement from the witness. I realize that there is a conflict with the Weekly story – either the Weekly mixed up the details (happens) or the witness mixed them up (unlikely, given he spent years in court testifying).

  4. Travis it might help if you could directly link to the court decisions that you mention.

    I’ve watched this blog for about six months out of pure entertainment. One of the aspects that has me perplexed is the perceived anonyminity of comments. Travis didn’t hide behind a pseudo name. I am sure the admin of this site has the wherewithal to figure out who you are. So why not extend some credibility and post your real name. It sure would help those of us sitting on the sidelines trying to make a judgment call give some credence to the comments.

    1. Whaaa…? Every blogger on this blog EXCEPT Travis hides behind a phony name, and you’re singling out anon commenters?

      1. The fact that Travis stands by his comments is exactly why I chose this post to make the distinction.

        I think there is a valid point to “The value of the statement is more valid than who said it”. Anyone who reads this blog with any frequency, however, should now be educated to the web of deceit that exists in local politics. Hasn’t this blog in the past been a fan of untangling that web and attempting to bring some transparency to the shills it exposes? Is it too much to ask that people who want their viewpoints to be taken seriously put a legit name to it?

  5. Those punks need more than a couple of punches that some pissed off cop could give them. Its too bad Cops don’t do it more often. What this country really needs are some real life Dirty Harrys instead of sending them to get healthy with their homies. Maybe then these losers would fear for their actions; the “system” ain’t doing it.

    1. Wrong. “Street justice” is a violation of the Rule of Law. The founders of this country witnessed horrible abuses at the hands of the authorities executed against those who “deserved it”. They wrote a Constitution to protect us from punishment without a fair trial.

      We have courts to determine guilt. Punishment dealt by cops is WRONG, no matter who it is against. Cops exist to protect our rights, detain suspects and gather evidence. That’s it.

  6. Read the various newspaper articles Travis has linked. Whether it was Hunter or Kelley swinging a flashlight at someone’s head, does it really matter in the face of so much evidence? Travis and admin do know who comments here, and that’s ok with me. There is a mutual respect and trust. Who the commentators are isn’t as significant as the history of this candidate for sheriff. (Maybe Nolan should move to OC so we can elect him?)

  7. What’s important is what you say (in this case write), not who said (wrote) it.

    Now take that to the bank and shove it.

  8. The only candidate worth backing is Bill Hunt. IF the people in this county fail again to elect the leader who has proven integrity so help us god we deserve shmucks like Hunter in office.

  9. Hunter = Backed by former Carona Cronies now all of this.

    Hutchens = Typlical LASO style heavy handed policing, not Second Amendment friendly, does not believe citizens have the right to defend themselves (unless they are connected, carry around a bag of diamonds or are a LEO or Judge), refuses to make the cuts needed to the OCSD budget.

    Hunt = Sounded the alarm against Carona, fought the big OC political machine’s influence / large war chest and almost won. Got the shaft by the Board of Supervisors during the appointment process. Got the shaft by the federal courts. Still has fight in him and is running one more time. Normally this country admires a guy who gets knocked down and who keeps getting up…. He’s got my vote…

  10. I somehow knew what side of the fence I wanted to be on during the summer of 2005. Yes, I was disappointed that June when Bill Hunt came close but not close enough to force a runoff. Today, who can deny Hunt was one the forces instrumental in ridding Orange County of Carona. We want a Sheriff having stature we can stand behind. Vindication already aside, Hunt is back with more of the voting public knowing and caring this time.

    Now, I am even more certain Bill Hunt is the right and deserving dragon-slayer. Bill Hunt is due our thanks as a major factor in the demise of Carona. On the other hand, the Deputy Chief from Anaheim appears to be already blemished, or more! Do we need to even consider for a moment an individual with such dubious baggage? Citizens of Orange County, do yourself a favor. Vote for Bill Hunt if you didn’t before. Remember, no one elected the Sheriff we have now. How did that happen? Why did that happen.? Should it ever happen again?

  11. Ah, yeah, Art, whatever you say. You’re only backing Hunter because that Hunt guy had a fundraiser with that Joe A. guy.

    So you spend a couple of hours talking to him, and you are charmed. So what? Maybe he’s charming – just like Mike Carona was.

  12. #22,

    Sean Mill and I grilled Hunter for close to two hours. He never flinched. He answered with intelligence and he actually had solid plans to improve the Sheriff’s Department.

    I met with Carona too, in the early days. He was vacuous even then, but yes, he was charming.

    Hunter actually has substance and he is a very respected lawman. Carona was a bailiff!

    As for Hunt, he was Carona’s boy. He only turned on Carona when he was tipped off that Carona was going to be indicted. He helped cover up for Haidl’s kid too.

    And yes, Hunt is allied with the worst racists in the OC. So no, I will NOT support him.

  13. Well, there you go, again. making this about Hunt. None of this is about Hunt. It’s about Hunter.

    So back to Hunter. His respect by other lawmen doesn’t suggest anything. Hutchens has tons of respect from McKinley – another cover up artist – see the problem with that?

    The fact that you and Sean Mills “grilled” him is great too, but it doesn’t change any of the facts of the long-drawn out Nolan affair – information brought out in depostions and trial (under oath) – not through “grilling” by a couple of bloggers in their spare time, who not coincidentally, vehemently oppose one of the guy’s opponents.

  14. #24,

    This is indeed all about Bill Hunt. Travis got played by the Huntistas.

    We didn’t. And the fact remains that Nolan hit a woman’s car and drove off. He was convicted for hit and run. And he told another guy he almost hit that he was drunk. Nice.

    There is a reason why the cops in Corona don’t back Steve Nolan.

    1. Mr. Pedroza, I really have to wonder if you ever even read the stuff you write? You criticize Nolan of being a RINO (as if that were relevant). Then you criticize him for not getting the backing of the Corona cops – a sure fire endorsement for any RINO!

      The fact that he doesn’t get their endorsement is a god thing, and should be to anybody who really cares about government free from union tentacles. But I digress. The endorsement by Corona’s cops viv-a-vis Nolan’s credibility is another red herring!

  15. Carona was the Orange County Marshal back when OC actually had a Marshal’s Office. They were responsible for the Courts and process serving among other things. Now the OC Sheriff’s Office uses “Special Deputies” for those functions including the airport. As I recall, Carona was the last Marshal. It was there that he met his “crew”, hanging around the courts.

    The Chief of Police as well as the sheriff are both authorized to issue CCW’s. Has Hunter ever been appointed acting chief or interim chief? If so, did he ever issue any CCW’s? When applicants apply for a CCW in Anaheim, what oversight does Hunter have? Is he directly or indirectly supervising the application review? As a matter of statistics, I wonder how many CCW’s are issued in Anaheim each year as compared with other O.C. cities like Brea, Buena Park, Cypress, and Newport Beach.

    Hunt has never had that authority but has maintained his position for at least the last 8 years that I have watched, if not longer. Hunt also has a tremendous amount of support from people I consider to be like-minded.

    When and in what context did he “help cover for Haidl’s kid”?

    As far as allegations of being “allied with the worst racists in the OC”, who is the racist and what is the basis for your claim?

  16. #26,

    I spoke to Hunter about CCW. His position is entirely different from that of Hutchens. He pointed out that the OC now has the most anti gun policy in California. Hutchens brought that mindset with her from LA.

    Go to this link: and you will find plenty of articles about Hunt and his relationship with Joe Arpaio, a crooked and racist cop from Arizona, and with Barbara Coe. Jim Gilchrist came on my blog and he also supports Hunt.

    You will also find that the OC Weekly covered what Hunt did to help Haidl’s kid.

    Hunt is the only Sheriff candidate who will not have a ballot designation in law enforcement. He is now a PI. He was drummed out for badmouthing his department, which is no bueno for a guy who was the Chief of Police in San Clemente.

    And don’t forget that Hunt is also affiliated with OC’s biggest loser, Tim Whitacre.

    1. He was “drummed out” for bad mouthing Carona. Surely you remember the truth. Now you’re pretending it was disloyalty to the department? Sad.

      Shill for your guy Mr. pedroza, but please don’t insult our intelligence by re-writing history!

    2. Art Pedroza is complete loser. He claims Hunt is a racist then supports the guy who beats up Mexicans HAHAHA…. You have more holes in your story than swiss cheese.

      In reference to Haidl…

      It wasn’t Haidls dope so you arrest someone who is not carrying the Marijuana? That was proven in all the reports. You know the story yet you play stupid and wake up every morning like it’s ground hogs day. Fail… Bill Murray would be proud!

      In reference to the Coe and Ghilchirst comment. They show up at an event because they like Bill Hunt. Do you think Bill Hunt controls who supports him and Hunt said he didn’t know they were coming? Fail again…

      The only racist here is the fat wanna be libertarian Art Pedroza. YOU fuel the violence between Mexicans and whites and are an influence peddler to a few blogs. Your cedibility is tarnished forever with your Man boy blog you disgusting pervert!

      Expect a lot of resistance in the coming months. The only choice for next OC Sheriff will be Bill Hunt.

  17. #31,

    There you go. You have done us a favor by showing us what Hunt supporters are like. Disgusting.

    Of course Nolan said Hunter beat up a few Mexicans. The FBI investigated and found it was all BS. And now you all know that Nolan is a discredited hit and run RINO.

    Hunter by the way has the support of Latino leaders in Anaheim. Hunt? No way. Those pictures of him and Barbara Coe sunk that battleship.

    Hunt is a complete joke. Don’t be fooled. He has NO chance of winning. All he can do is assure that Hutchens will win, which sucks. Hunt should do the right thing and withdraw now.

    1. Actually Pedrosa, I think Dan C over at Liberal OC proved beyond any doubt that you did in fact post up that Man/Boy link. Aren’t you getting sued for that?

  18. #36,

    You are now commenting about things that are not relevant to this post. I guess that is your admission that the Huntistas have lost this battle.

    Dan C. and his allies acquired URLS with my name and that of Sean Mill. In retaliation we acquired a few URLS too and had fun pointing them to sites that would embarrass them.

    To summarize, Dan and company started a blog war with us and then ran screaming to a lawyer when we gave them a taste of their own medicine. Sounds wussy to me.

    Now can we get back on point? Oh, that’s right, you and your fellow Huntistas are pointless.

    1. Not a “Huntistas”. I would believe a jury of 12 anytime over anything said by Hunter, Nolan and particularly you. Just like I believe the jury in the Carona trial. Is that enough on point for you?

  19. Wow, I had no idea just how immature some commentators, like Art, are. Sure a few comments here and there but to intentionally setup sites that redirect to someplace else is completely wrong. It’s fraud, misrepresentation, and totally counter productive. AND HE ADMITS IT! For God’s sake, Art, that is just wrong on so many levels! Do you not have a moral compass? Surely your parents wouldn’t be proud.

    There are a few good posts on FFFF from Travis and others but with people like Art trolling around, I need to rethink where I spend my time.

  20. This guy is a thug, and deserves to be treated as one. Like Corona, Craig Hunter will one day get his comeuppance in a most public way.

    Letting him into office will be a very bad move for justice, and a nod to more Corona-esque values.

  21. In order to find out why they were bloodied and bruised, all one has to do is get the hospital report. That will have everything on it, it will have documented every blow.

    Quite frankly, I think the downfall of California with all the “3 strikes” stuff is the license it gave to cops with a tendency toward violence even more reason to embrace the tough guy facade. They do a grave disservice to all the honest cops who go the extra mile to communicate, work with and also bring honor to the profession.

    He doesn’t deserve to get in. I would expect that he has a lot of support from people who are like-minded, however it doesn’t make him necessarily a good person, nor the right person for this job.

  22. Oh I forgot.” Matt Jerbal, The gerbil” Cunningham supports Hunter as well. Maybe him and Pedroza could have some sort of a dating relationship and make amends. They deserve each other.

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