Derek Worden, president of South Coast Safe Access collective. (Sam Gangwer, The Orange County Register)

$100K reward offered in shooting of California marijuana dispensary owner

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A $100,000 reward is being offered by the Santa Ana Police Department for information leading to the arrest of a suspect in the attempted murder of a marijuana dispensary owner.

The money from anonymous donors was announced on Thursday, nearly eight months after the shooting, “because the case is getting to the point where it’s cold and we need some new leads,” Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said.

It’s one of the higher amounts offered by the Santa Ana Police Department.

Derek Worden, owner of South Coast Safe Access at 1900 E. Warner Ave., had exited his dispensary and was walking to his car in the parking lot around 3 p.m. Nov. 2 when he was shot multiple times by a gunman, according to police. Worden, 48, said one bullet grazed his left shoulder, a couple of bullets hit the headrest of his car, and a fourth bullet hit him in the abdomen.

He was transported to Western Medical in Santa Ana in critical condition and spent 17 days in the intensive care unit. “I am very thankful to be here today,” he said on Thursday.

Worden said he did not know the suspect, identified as a thin-built man of unknown race, between 20 and 30 years old and between 5-foot-4 and 5-foot-6. He fled on foot southbound through the business complex.

A surveillance video captured the suspect in a hooded sweater sitting on a curb and appearing to wait for Worden. When Worden left the dispensary, the suspect did not try to rob him or exchange any words.

“It’s quite apparent his intent was to shoot the victim, for what reason, we don’t know,” said Bertagna.

In August, South Coast Safe Access became the first licensed and regulated medical marijuana dispensary to open in Orange County. Santa Ana approved a plan to grant 20 licenses for pot operators on a lottery basis, after voters passed Measure BB in November 2014.

In response to Worden’s shooting, Santa Ana Council members in April removed a requirement that security guards at licensed medical marijuana dispensaries be unarmed. That was “the only good thing,” Worden said, that came from the injuries he sustained.

Donors offered the reward, Worden said, for “my safety, it’s my fellow employees’ safety, it’s everybody’s safety.”

“I don’t want this to ever happen to anybody,” he said. “The suspect needs to be apprehended, justice needs to be served.”

Anyone with information on the suspect should contact the police department’s homicide section at 714-245-8390.

Contact the writer: 714-796-7762

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