Lakers' victory parade still a go

Updated: June 15, 2009, 11:13 PM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Looting and vandalism that broke out in the aftermath of the Los Angeles Lakers' basketball championship won't keep the city from celebrating the team's victory: City officials and the Lakers are planning a victory parade they hope will overshadow unrest the police chief blames on a mob of "knuckleheads."

Police were reviewing security video and media images Monday to identify suspects who caused damage downtown the night before. Police Chief William Bratton said many known gang members were in the crowd.

[+] EnlargeLakers Fans
AP Photo/Jae C. HongA Lakers fan stomps on a car in the hours after LA beat the Magic to win another NBA championship.

"These knuckleheads seem to really relish their opportunity in the dark," Bratton said.

A parade was being planned for Wednesday. City officials were meeting Monday afternoon to plan for security along the parade route and a rally to be held at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Lakers spokesman John Black confirmed that the Lakers and the city will kick in about $1 million apiece for the party. Citing the city's financial crisis, unions representing police, traffic officers, street and sanitation workers demanded the Lakers or other private groups pay for it.

Bratton didn't know how much the parade would cost, but he said the team and members of the business community planned to provide financial assistance. The cost will depend on the number of city workers needed.

"Some of what is being planned will be informed by what happened last night," the chief said, referring to Sunday's disturbance.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told KTLA-TV he has already raised several hundred thousand dollars from private donators and the city "will not put in a million dollars" for the event.

Fans eagerly buying Lakers' gear at the downtown Team LA store on Monday expressed disgust over the disturbance.

"It's uncalled for, it's a shame and it's embarrassing for a lot of us in Los Angeles," said Mark Scoggins, 48.

"It was ridiculous, it was definitely not the right way to celebrate," said Alex Ramirez, 27.

Trouble erupted Sunday night in the area around Staples Center, the Lakers' home court, even though the team won its 15th National Basketball Association championship in Florida, defeating the Orlando Magic 99-86 in Game 5 of the final series.

Street celebrations that began peacefully turned ugly. Fires were set, objects were thrown at police officers, several businesses were looted and buses, police cars and other vehicles were vandalized. Hooligans hurled rocks through the window of one bus abandoned under an overpass.

Eight police officers were injured and 18 people were arrested Sunday night.

Two more people were arrested Monday when neighbors of a looted shoe store alerted authorities to two residents of an adjacent building.

When officers knocked on their door they saw shoe boxes inside the apartment, said police Sgt. Mark Pearce. The man and woman, who were not immediately identified, were booked for investigation of theft.

Inside The Holy Grail shoe store, shelves were empty and glass display cases were shattered. Receipts, paperwork and shoe boxes were scattered around a back storeroom.

Store owner Richard Torres said he lost at least $100,000 worth of vintage sneakers and sports apparel, as well as computers.

More than anything, he was upset because much of the stolen merchandise was burned.

"It would be different if we got burglarized, but they were literally lighting stuff on fire," said Torres, whose business usually does well after games when sports fans stop in.

"For this to happen, it leaves a sour taste," he said.

Torres and store manager Liz Sanchez could not understand why police were unable to prevent the looting. Sanchez said witnesses told her that the store was targeted when one person started shouting "Who wants shoes?" The door was then pushed in.

At a Shell gas station, assistant manager Jorge Osorio said looters took candy and sodas from its convenience store and fled.

"So now we just clean up and move on," he said.

Bratton told KNX radio that the Police Department was adequately prepared with resources staged in different areas of the city.

"It's unfortunate that as we were dispersing those groups, making arrests, that a number of them for a period of time were able to commit the acts of vandalism, the looting ... until we were able to get sufficient resources," he said.

The chief said he was not satisfied with what occurred, but he said the blame should fall on the mob, not the department or the city.

Bratton said he anticipated more arrests as officers review media footage to "identify a lot of these characters, many of whom are gang members and are well known to us."

Sunday's game was not shown on Staples Center's giant exterior TV screen. In 2000, a large crowd that watched the Lakers win the NBA title turned into a mob that torched police cars, a TV van and caused about $750,000 in property damage to businesses.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press