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Southeast communities avoid heavy looting

Area cities report few incidents of vandalism following black man’s death

LOS ANGELES — While other parts of the region were harder hit by looting and violence as Southland residents reacted to the killing of a black man by a Minneapolis police officer May 25, only a small number of looting incidents and violence spilled over into southeast Los Angeles communities.

Protests following the death of George Floyd, who died after a police officer kneeled on his throat for more than eight minutes, resulted in three nights of curfews for Los Angeles County residents from May 31 to June 2.

County officials scheduled a fourth night of curfews for June 3, but delayed the curfew until 9 p.m. The earlier curfews had started at 6 p.m.

Bellflower and Paramount had their share of violence reaching to small businesses.

Sgt. Robert Martinez with the Lakewood Sheriff’s Station said three independent pharmacies were hit by looters in Bellflower and a fourth one in Paramount, in addition to a WSS shoes store in the latter city. 

Martinez said officers arrested individuals linked to the crimes, but declined to elaborate on the amount and cost of damages. 

Looters at the WSS Shoes store shattered windows, leaving shards of glass strewn on the floor as they stole boxes of shoes and clothing. Workers boarded the window frames with plywood and tallied the losses on June 2.

Capt. David Sprengel said deputies from the Lakewood station weret “incredibly busy” May 31 responding to civil unrest and acts of looting.

He encouraged residents, business owners and employees to report vandalism, looting or suspicious criminal activity related to the ongoing protests. 

“We worked through the night as we do every day to provide safety to each of the communities we serve,” Sprengel said. 

In Downey, looters vandalized Hall Market and Liquor store and broke into a JC Penney store located at the Stonewood Mall May 31, breaking glass and stealing merchandise.

Councilman Sean Ashton said Downey police officers arrested several suspects, without physical injuries reported. 

Downey Police Department made contingency plans to safeguard properties and human lives in case more protests moved forward.

“I have been told [other demonstrations] have been canceled,” Ashton said. “Our PD is aware of them and have made plans to help keep the peace if they weren’t canceled.” 

Groups of young protesters carrying signs that said “Black Lives Matter” sat at the corner of Firestone and Paramount boulevards at 2 p.m. June 2, chanting “I can’t breathe,” at passing vehicles.

“I Can’t Breathe” was something Floyd repeatedly said as the officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on his throat May 25 in Minneapolis.

Chauvin has since been charged with second-degree murder and the three offiers who were with in have been charged with aiding and abetting murder by the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office.

Other demonstrators carried similar signs at the entrance of the deserted Stonewood Center in Downey.  

Minutes after midnight on June 2, a Target store in Norwalk suffered storefront damages and looting, but three suspects were arrested by sheriff’s deputies and charged with robbery and violation of curfew. 

Broken windows and lost inventory was estimated at $6,000, according to Lt. Tenaya Brown of the Norwalk’s Sheriff Station.

So far, no liquor stores or smaller outlets have been vandalized.

“We have been very lucky, and I hope it’ll stay that way,” Brown said. 

A demonstration of maybe 200 people in Whittier May 31 was peaceful, according to reports.

Protesters met at City Hall and marched into the Uptown Whittier shopping district. Most business owners had already boarded up their storefronts and many were on hand as the crowd of demonstrators moved up Greenleaf Avenue.

The Whittier Police Department also maintained a visual presence.  

The city of Commerce had a few protestors May 31 milling about the Citadel Outlets Mall on Telegraph Road, threatening to break storefronts, but police were summoned and no damages occurred. 

Daniel Larios, media specialist with the city of Commerce, said due to the current events the mall with the façade of an Assyrian castle had closed down again, and will remain closed with continuous police presence until further notice. 

“We have Sheriff’s Department officers posted in and around the Citadel. Out of an abundance of caution, the mall will remain closed,” Larios said.

South Gate implemented its own curfew starting June 1 from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., and suspended COVID-19 tests being held at an AltaMed clinic until further notice. People with appointments were advised to reschedule visits. 

Pico Rivera Mayor Gustavo Camacho issued a statement condemning police brutality, encouraged residents to voice their anger in peace, but said the city will not tolerate criminal behavior that jeopardizes the integrity of local businesses and human safety. 

“It makes no sense to harm others or to destroy the property of others,” Camacho said. “When you destroy someone else’s property or small business, you are destroying their dreams and their hard work. When you harm someone, you negate the very reason for your protest.”

By Alfredo Santana

Contributing Writer