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18 people arrested in Lakers melees

June 15, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Jubilant fans poured out onto the streets of Los Angeles Sunday to celebrate the Lakers' title-clinching win over the Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals. But it didn't take long for the crowds to turn unruly, forcing the LAPD to go on tactical alert. Hundreds swarmed the streets near the Staples Center, vandalizing cars, setting fires, throwing bottles, and looting nearby stores. At one point unruly fans even climbed a hill and tried to get onto the freeway.

At least 18 people were arrested for disturbing the peace, arson and other infractions.

A few LAPD cars were damaged as police were pelted with rocks, bottles and fireworks. Six MTA buses were damaged. Fires were started near the Staples Center, and hundreds of people busted out windows of stores and took what they could, according to police.

"They tried to first break in to the shoe store next door to our market and then they [weren't] able to break the window out so yanked the doors open, went inside an stole all the shoes that were there," said one business owner.

Some businesses opened up Monday morning with windows boarded up. Detectives arrested two people outside a high-end consignment shoe store Monday for allegedly stealing merchandise during the chaos Sunday.

"We're back here this morning following up on the looting that occurred last night," said LAPD Detective Michael Brausam. "We were able to identify a couple suspects that lived in a building near the location that was looted, which was a shoe store. Right now, we took two suspects into custody and we're going to look at trying to get charges filed for theft on those two suspects."

Shoe store owner Richard Torres says he's upset with what happened to his store.

"These shoes had owners, it's not even like, all these shoes were the community's shoes that people had been collecting and saving," said Torres. "So I guess people, when it comes down to it, they don't, they don't care."

Torres says he has insurance and will be able to reopen once he builds his inventory back up.

Crowds in the streets blocked traffic and rocked vehicles. Worried motorists ran red lights because they didn't want to stop at an intersection and be mobbed.

At least eight LAPD officers were injured when people began throwing bottles and rocks. One of the officers was taken to a hospital and the others were treated at the scene. All injuries are said to have been minor.

LAPD Chief William Bratton called those who got out of hand "cowards," "knuckleheads" and "thugs."

"Ironically, the evening started out very well. I was here at 7 o'clock actually in the middle of the crowd at the Staples Center. A lot of families, very happy and festive event," said Bratton. "But some time around the area of 8 o'clock, or 8:30, a number of people in that crowd began to disrupt."

Two people were arrested in East L.A. when Sheriff's deputies were sent in to break up the crowd and restore order. Celebrations also turned rowdy there last Thursday after the Lakers won Game 4, with fans rocking vehicles.

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