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Seeking suspects, LAPD posts footage of people lighting fires, harming property during protests

Kevin Rector, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Police Department posted a collection of images and video online Monday showing people lighting fires and destroying property during recent protests in Los Angeles, and called for the public's help in identifying suspects.

The FBI, working with the LAPD, has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the highlighted incidents, which officials said endangered residents and undermined the message of peaceful protesters.

"The FBI respects and supports those who are exercising their First Amendment rights, including the right to peacefully protest," said Voviette Morgan, special agent in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles field office. "Individuals should not have to have their constitutionally protected rights hijacked by individuals committing criminal activity."

The release of the photos and footage followed a month of legwork by a special task force created by the LAPD to hold people accountable for "the serious crimes that occurred during the protests, specifically in the areas of violent assaults, the looting and ultimately the arson crimes," said LAPD Deputy Chief Kris Pitcher.

The LAPD and its partners -- including county and federal prosecutors and police in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica -- have collected evidence from residents and businesses from across the region. The Santa Monica police and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have separately offered rewards for information about a restaurant fire and the theft of dozens of firearms from a sporting goods store in Santa Monica.

The incidents in question came amid a much larger movement in which tens of thousands of people marched peacefully in Los Angeles and around the world to protest police killings of Black people, including the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The city issued a curfew for several consecutive days at the end of May and early this month as some of the protests spiraled out of control and buildings were burned and businesses damaged. Police have blamed rogue criminal elements for inciting chaos, while many protesters blamed the LAPD and other law enforcement agencies for escalating tensions and provoking clashes.

Some business owners have accused the LAPD of focusing too much on peaceful protesters and not enough on individuals breaking into stores on the protests' periphery.

The footage and images released by police Monday showed people lighting fires inside two separate businesses and in an LAPD kiosk at the Grove in the city's Fairfax District, dousing a police car with what the LAPD alleged was "fire accelerant," and ripping the security gate off a storefront before they smashed their way in.

 

Other images depicted people whom police identified as suspects simply standing in the street, including a man they alleged assaulted an officer. Some of the people shown are masked; others are not.

In total, the LAPD said it had identified more than 150 incidents in which officers were assaulted, at least 10 fires, and 20 crimes related to "looting" of local businesses. They have charged one man with attempted murder after he allegedly fired at two sets of officers, and expect charges to be filed in more cases as more evidence is collected.

Police have repeatedly cited assaults on officers, fires and other damage to stores as reasons for the dispersal orders given during major protests that turned confrontational.

A Los Angeles Times investigation found that LAPD officers badly injured many protesters as the officers tried to disperse crowds by using batons and firing foam and sponge projectiles and beanbags. Officers appeared to violate the department's own policies on how such weapons could be used. Individuals suffered serious injuries to their heads, faces and genitals.

The Police Department is currently facing several lawsuits alleging its officers used excessive force and is in the process of completing an internal review of its response during the protests.

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