HOLLYWOOD, CA – A band of robbers that tore through Hollywood Boulevard on Tuesday night appear to be some of the same youths who were attacking people and vandalizing stores in the Crenshaw district earlier this week where demonstrators were protesting the George Zimmerman murder trial verdict, police said.
The thieves moved fast and swarmed their victims, mirroring the activity seen in Crenshaw the previous evening.
“I think this specific group came up to riot and cause problems in Hollywood,” LAPD Sgt. John Barkley said. “They were not engaging in any kind of protest.”
Of the dozen people arrested in the indiscriminate crime spree, most of the suspects came from South L.A. or Compton and used the subway to get there, he said.
Many involved in the robberies remain at large.The group exited at the Hollywood and Vine station, he said. KTLA reported some of the suspects were caught trying to get back on the train after the robberies. Up to 50 people were involved in the crime spree, officials said.
Security camera footage obtained by L.A. Weekly shows a wave of youths running down the Hollywood Walk of Fame with tourists trying to avoid the stampede.
Public information officer Rosario Herrera said at least one of the attacks was near the Hollywood and Highland retail complex.
Police told The Times it appears the youths were betting on the increased police presence in Crenshaw to leave Hollywood vulnerable. Some in the group said they wanted to “riot” in Hollywood.
But police had additional resources in the area too, following a fatal stabbing near Hollywood and Highland in June.
Many of the robbers in Tuesday’s crime spree were caught in minutes. About half a dozen were arrested in the 6300 block of Hollywood Boulevard and another group was caught at Romaine Street and Western Avenue, police told The Times.
There were no reports of weapons involved in the attacks, which victimized at least four people, according to police.
Officials said the robbers splintered into smaller groups of 10 to 15 people and spread through the area, regrouping at times. The attackers appeared to be an organized group who knew one another, according to police. Officers swarmed the Hollywood area as helicopters for police and news media circled overhead.
More than 110 officers were brought in from other LAPD divisions to track down the robbers, LAPD Capt. Dennis Kato said, pitting police against the attackers in a massive cat-and-mouse game around Hollywood.
Authorities said they expect additional victims of the attacks to call police in the coming days, likely connecting the dozen in custody to additional robberies.