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Despite heavy LAPD presence, violence breaks out after Lakers' victory

Crowds hurl bottles and other objects at police, smash marquees, jump on vehicles, break windows and light a small fire along Figueroa Street. At least one person is beaten unconscious.

June 18, 2010|By Sam Allen and Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times

Despite a massive Los Angeles police presence Thursday night, sporadic violence broke out near Staples Center after the Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals.


FOR THE RECORD:
Lakers celebration violence: An article in Friday's LATExtra section about violence near Staples Center after the Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics on Thursday in the NBA Finals gave the wrong name for a restaurant where fans had gathered, hoping to glimpse the game on a television inside. It was La Bella Cucina, not La Bella Covina. —

Crowds hurled bottles and other objects at police, smashed marquees, jumped on vehicles, broke windows, and set rubbish dumpsters and vehicles on fire along Figueroa Street north of Staples Center and on Flower Street.

Police fired non-lethal rounds to disperse the crowd at Figueroa and Venice Boulevard after several small fires were set, as well as at 11th and Hope streets. At 7th and Flower, a car believed to be a taxicab was engulfed in flames.

At least one person was beaten unconscious as fights broke out on Flower Street near Olympic Boulevard. A bicyclist was injured when struck by a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department vehicle near 11th and Flower streets, according to the LAPD.

In all, there were multiple injuries but no loss of life, officials said. One police officer suffered a broken nose. As night wore on, fire crews responded to many rubbish fires and some vehicle fires, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The LAPD declared an unlawful assembly moments after the game ended.

Hundreds of officers in patrol cars, on foot and on horseback moved in to clear streets and break up the crowds. At least 12 people were arrested for crimes including public drunkenness, vandalism and inciting a riot. One person was arrested for assault on a police officer, authorities said.

Several dozen people rushed onto the 10 Freeway near Figueroa and Washington boulevards, disrupting traffic, the California Highway Patrol said.

At 8th and Figueroa, Lakers fans and a phalanx of more than two dozen police, wearing riot gear and wielding batons, faced off. The stand-off began when a bunch of fans tore down a traffic sign and then ripped out two newspaper stands and lighted the papers on fire. When the police marched up Figueroa, about two dozen abreast, the crowd slowly receded. Some people were throwing energy drinks, which had been passed out for free after the win. Others posed for photos in front of the line of police.

A group of overzealous fans began smashing the windows of a black Honda and trying to turn it over. Others protested the violence: "You isn't from L.A.! This is L.A. No burning!" one person in a Kobe Bryant jersey shouted.

The YMCA at 11th and Olive Street was vandalized as taggers marked graffiti up and down the side of a wall. Another person upended a traffic sign and bashed in several windows.

That was too much for two men. "It's getting too hot, dog," one of them said to his friend. "Let's bounce!"

The LAPD reported that things seemed to be calming down after 11 p.m.

In 2000, the LAPD was criticized after mayhem erupted following the Lakers' championship victory. Roaming mobs torched vehicles and looted and vandalized businesses near Staples Center with seeming impunity. The department fared better after last year's championship but still needed a few hours to gain control of rowdy fans.

Top LAPD officials had vowed to do things differently this year and relied, in part, on a strategy of keeping large groups from roaming the area around Staples Center.

As the Lakers battled the Celtics in the first half, crowds began to form at the Nokia Theatre plaza across from Staples Center.

Witnesses said the LAPD was quick to respond when the throng began to grow.

A black-and-white police cruiser drove through the middle of the plaza, splitting the crowd as officers on foot began to move people from the area, according to diners at nearby restaurants.

"It was controlled chaos. They blocked them and pinched them so everyone had to leave out the same side," said John Hall of Bakersfield, who watched the scene unfold from the ESPN Zone.

With the plaza area cleared, officers shut down Figueroa Street at Olympic Boulevard to pedestrian traffic. About 100 people gathered at the corner after they were stopped from heading south toward Staples Center.

Some of them crowded the window at La Bella Covina restaurant, trying to watch the game on a television inside.

Police patrol cars lined Chick Hearn Plaza. Two trucks of police in riot gear and another group of officers on horseback lined up along Figueroa and Olympic as people assembled nearby.

Meanwhile, inspectors with the Los Angeles Fire Department were checking bars to ensure they had not exceeded maximum capacity.

sam.allen@latimes.com

kate.linthicum@latimes.com

Times staff writers Joel Rubin, Robert J. Lopez, Ruben Vives, Paloma Esquivel, Andrew Blankstein, Robert Faturechi, Abby Sewell and Hector Becerra contributed to this report.

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