'I've got to tell them what I'm seeing.' KABC reporters recall covering LA riots

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- When the LA riots ignited in 1992, ABC7 reporters worked days on end to cover them, often risking their own personal safety to bring live stories to viewers watching the violence unfold.

Reporter Ric Romero was on the streets as the riots started. He stood in front of a building in Long Beach consumed by flames bringing viewers the latest images from a city that seemed to be on fire.

Anchor Gene Gleeson was in the middle of Vermont as stores were looted. "Fires continue to burn all around us," Gleeson said as he gestured toward the crowds of people breaking windows and emptying buildings of merchandise.

Gleeson and Romero returned to a very different neighborhood 25 years later to remember the story that united a city in outrage.

The veteran newsmen are now retired, but they've forgotten nothing about those five days.

MORE: See all of ABC7's coverage marking 25 years since the LA riots

"My memories are still pretty solid when I think back on seeing shop owners on the roof of their businesses with rifles and handguns trying to protect them," Romero said.

"I was right in the middle of all the looting and all the chaos," Gleeson said. "There were police around, but not very many. Some guy tried to grab the microphone and take it away."

Romero was live as two armed groups faced off in a parking lot.

"This is incredible tension," Romero said on camera in 1992. "Incredible fear that I've got right now. It's like on old west shootout out here."

Camera lights at night were another disadvantage for reporters and crews.

"In one case at night in Long Beach I was standing there and the light is on you and you cannot see anything beyond that light," Romero said. During that live shot, a crowd of onlookers began to pelt Romero with cans.

While Romero covered looting at a Circuit City on Sunset and Fountain, a man carried a television off while brandishing a gun toward camera crews.

No amount of experience could have prepared even veteran reporters for what they would encounter during the riots.

"It was a very difficult thing to cover," Gleeson said. "They had to really be careful that we weren't inciting and at the same time covered the story."

"Your mindset is: 'I've got to tell them what I'm seeing, what is happening and give them the truth," Romero said.

For reporters, it was five days in L.A. covering a story so big even the distance of time can barely put it in perspective.
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