HUNTINGTON BEACH (CBSLA.com) — Nine people were taken into custody and seven face charges following a “major” disturbance at the conclusion of the US Open of Surfing in Orange County, police said Monday.
The first reports of fights occurred just after 7:15 p.m. Sunday with officers attempting to break up a large crowd in downtown Huntington Beach, police said.
“The crowds began fighting, damaging property and refused to disperse,” said officials.
Police said 15 to 20 portable toilets were knocked over. Two city trucks and four police cars were also damaged.
Video from the incident shows a stop sign ripped from the ground and used to break the display window of the Easyrider Bike Shop on Main St. One bike was stolen.
“I started wrestling with a looter to pull the second bike back in,” said store employee Bert Etheredge. “And then all of a sudden the people turned and just started running up Main Street, like a flood of people. And that was scary. So we all ran into the shop, locked the doors and shut down the windows.”
Police from 21 Orange County departments were called to the area, with more than 200 officers on scene. After declaring an “unlawful assembly” and giving orders to leave the area, officers fired rubber projectiles and pepper balls to disperse the crowd.
“I want to make clear that the law enforcement officers in my view used a great deal of restraint when facing a barrage of bottles, bricks, rocks and other devices being thrown at them from a crowd of people who repeatedly failed to disperse after being ordered to do so,” Huntington Beach Police Chief Ken Small said at a news conference Monday afternoon.
Order was restored around 9p.m. Chief Small said the additional support from O.C. police departments helped officers to neutralize the situation quickly.
“There were very few minor injuries and there was some, but minimal, damage to public and private property,” Chief Small said.
One person was also arrested for assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, Lt. John Domingo told KNX 1070. The weapon was reportedly a skateboard.
“Damage included damage to city vehicles, portable toilets, newspaper racks, broken windows and street signs,” Lt. Mitchell O’Brien said.
Police said several witnesses captured the vandals on cell phone cameras and social media and have turned the footage over to authorities.
“We’re getting a lot of stuff on Twitter, Facebook,” said Lt. O’Brien. “We’ve got a team of people sifting through that” to identify those involved.
“We’re extremely disappointed and saddened by the disturbance that occurred up on Main St. after the close of the US Open of Surfing,” organizers said in a statement posted on Facebook. “We work tirelessly with City staff, police, fire and other agencies to ensure a safe environment for all.”
Huntington Beach police were still looking for additional suspects and requested that anyone with pictures, video or information to call (714) 375-5066. Photographs and footage can also be sent to a special email address set up for the investigation at HBPDfiles@gmail.com.