CITY UNDER SIEGE: LA MESA RELEASES TIMELINE AND NARRATIVE ON NIGHT OF RIOT, VIOLENCE AND ARSON

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By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left by Henri Migala:  Officers outside LMPD station vandalized with graffiti by late afternoon, shortly before rioting began.

June 10, 2020 (La Mesa) – The city of La Mesa has released a timeline and incident narrative of the protest and subsequent riot in La Mesa May 30-31, which reveal chilling details of an increasingly violent siege waged against police and sheriff officers as well as City Hall and businesses across the city.  Despite reinforcements pre-staged, rioting swiftly grew out of control, starting from early reports of violence starting at 4 p.m. that later escalated into hurling of bottle bombs (Molotov cocktails) at police, breaking windows on police vehicles with officers inside and attacking an armored bearcat.  Looting commenced in multiple locatoins, rocks and bottles were hurled at officers, as rioters throughout the long night and early morning hours of mayhem ignited multiple vehicles, burned down two banks and a historic building,and ignited nuermous other locations.

Police defended themselves with non-lethal weapons including tear gas, pepperballs and beanbags, striking at least two people in the head. Multiple officers were also reported injured. It remains to be seen whether the looting and burning were done by protesters or outside groups that took advantage of what began as a peaceful protest and march against police violence earlier in the day, or perhaps a combination of both.

Timeline

Prior to the event, the Sheriff’s Dept. ad agreed to have platoons ready to deploy to La Meas if needed, two of which were staged at the city’s Public Works facility by early afternoon with two other squadrons nearby; CHP platoons were staged along the I-8 freeway.

The timeline captured by LMPD’s Computer Automated Dispatch system reveals that an initially peaceful protest and march began to turn violent as early as 3:59 p.m., when CHP officers on I-8 had bottles thrown at them and requests were immediately made to surrounding agencies for mutual aid. At 4 p.m., an Instagram Live protester posted intent for a group to loot Walmart. Three minutes later, a group jumped the wall into the mall.  Sheriff squads arrived at 4:10 as about 200 people gathered in front of the LMPD station.

At 4:42 a caller reported being struck in the face by a protester in the Olive Garden lot at Grossmont Center. At 4:47 p.m. protesters lit a flag on fire in front of the police station and began throwing rocks at LMPD, also committing acts of vandalism at the station’s east gate including spray painting by someone in a black ski mask. At 4:50 p.m. a police vehicle at Baltimore and University was reportedly attacked.  At 5 p.m. a man in black clothes tried to jump a wall as a Sheriff’s platoon arrived.

At 5:08 p.m. a deputy was struck by a rock; one minute later the first dispersal orders were given to the crowd, repeated multiple times. At 5:37 p.m., however, a group climbed on the Bearcat armored vehicle and soon after broke windows while others hurled rocks at it; around the same time rocks and water bottles were thrown at police vehicles with officers inside. At 5:42 p.m., the Bearcat deployed pepperballs. At 6:02 p.m., tear gas was deployed by Sheriff’s officers but the rock throwing continued on all sides of the station.

Photo, right by Ken Stone: Bearcat damaged by rocks hurled at windows

Gas and pepperballs were deployed in the ensuing minutes; by 6:08 p.m. objects were reported thrown from the fire station area.  Over the next hour, the standoff at the police station escalated with hails of rocks and repeated rounds of gas. A deputy awas repoted injured at 7:16 p.m.   People were spotted atop city hall between 7 and 7:30, when the American Legion hall also came under attack.  Beanbags were fired into the front lobby of City Hall at 7:30 p.m.

A long-range acoustical device (LRAD) was deployed by the Sheriff at 7:35 p.m. to assure that the crowd could hear dispersal orders.

At 8:17 p.m. two callers reported a bean bag possibly struck a woman who was loaded into a vehicle. (She was later identified as Leslie Furcron, who had shouted "Murderer" at police. The incident report claims she was observed throwing an object at a Sheriff's officer, though her attorney disputes this claim.)

Photo, right: tear gas deployed.

A fire was reported a minute later in the sally port at the station that was quickly extinquished.

By 8:25, police on the line were nearly out of bean bags and pepperballs, needing a resupply.  AT 8:30, rioters were trying to overturn a fire department truck and subsequently stole items off the vehicle. AT 8:40 p.m. a fire department truck (pickup) was set on fire on Allison in front of City Hall.  Fighting was reported nearby between two groups at University and El Capitan. Rocks and water bottles on the Spring Street side of the Civic Center were being hurled. At 8:56 p.m. a delivery vehicle was reported on fire in the school district’ s parking lot.

Photo, left by Paul Kruze: Officers guard City Hall

At 9:01 p.m. a person who bought a cannister of gasoline at USA Gas was seen walking toward the police station as two vehicles on Allison, a fire department vehicle and another, were fully engulfed. 

An order fo make arrests was given at 9:07 after yet another dispersal order; prisoners were to be taken to the Sally Port on University. 

At the La Mesa Springs Center, looting at  Vons was reported at 9:12 p.m.; rioters loaded up rolling trashcans with rocks meanwhile en route to the LMPD station. Rocks and bottles were hurled at officers downtown and another deputy was injured at 9:37 p.m.

Fire was reported soon after inside Play it Again Sports at 9:51 p.m.  at 10:09 p.m. , a report indicated someone tried to set fire to Sally’s Beauty Supply; minutes later some 150-200 people were reported in front of Vons.  Across the street at the library, a man in black was reported as possibly having a weapon.

A line of police pushed toward Round Table toward Vons at La Mesa Springs, with bottles hurled at them. People with bats were reported at 10:29 walking past the police station on University. Others were picking up rocks from landscaping downtown.

Looting a Walmart in Grossmont Center was reported at 10:41 p.m. Minute later looting at multiple Grossmont Center businesses was reported while an active fire at University and La Mesa Blvd. was also called in as the chaos spread.  At 10:52 p.m. smoke was reported coming from the roof at Vons.

Chase Bank’s windows were broken out at 10:56 p.m. as a crowd of around 200 gathered.  At the same time a dumpster was set ablaze at Spring and Orange.

A gun shop on University was burglarized at 11 p.m., the same time intruders forced entry into Chase Bank, which was reported on fire at 11:10 p.m. Within three minutes it was fully engulfed in flames

At 11:12 p.m. Looting at Target in Grossmont Center was reported at 11:12 p.m.  

The attack on Union Bank started at 11:24 with people tearing money out of the ATM; five minutes later, Union Bank was engulfed in flames as well at 11:29.

At 11:31 p.m. reports came in of several businesses being looted on La Mesa Blvd. east of Spring St.  Rocks and other objects were hurled at officers behind the bank soon after.

The Mayor’s office had a glass door broken at 11:44 p.m.  Vehicles in the Target lot at Grossmont Center were vandalized at 12:13 a.m.

At 12:18 a.m. a group of people began setting fires behind the Chase Bank (presumably the Randall Lamb architectural firm’s building which was destroyed by fire).  Photo, left by Jake Rose.

At 12:25 a “protestor” took a beanbag round to the head – the second head injury of the night.  As looting and burning continued across the area, more gas was deployed.  At 12:56 a.m. a report came in of a man with a shotgun at Spring St. and La Mesa, wearing a black sweatshirt with white lettering on the back.

Another fire was reported at 4757 Palm Ave. at 1:03 a.m.  Then at 1:04 a.m., a man reportedly fired shots into the air at Sprouts market at 4630 Palm.

At 1:10 a.m. the city’s Director of Emergency and disaster declared a curfew from1 :30 a.m. to 7 a.m.

Not until 1:12 did Heartland Fire stage for Randall Lamb. An ABLE helicopter broadcast unlawful assembly announcements at 1:15 a.m.   Gas was deployed at 1:51 at Spring and Allison but rocks and other projectiles continued to be hurled; at 2:24 a.m. people were seen on the roof of Johnny B’s restaurant. 

By 3:26 a.m., fireworks were being set off near Union Bank.

The LMPD timeline ends at 3:26 a.m.

San Diego Sheriff Dept. took command of the chaotic situation at midnight, though the chaos continued long after that with banks and the Randall Lamb building continue to burn into the next day.

ECM has requested a timeline from the Sheriff for the duration of the long night’s siege and early morning hours to learn more about La Mesa's night of terror.

Miriam Raftery, ECM Editor and host of ECM's radio show on KNSJ, has won more than 350 journalism awards for national and regional coverage. Her experience covering major protests, disasters and civil unrest includes the Alfred Olango police shooting in El Cajon anti-war marches in Washington D.C. during the Iraq War, protests over lack of federal resources after Hurricane Katrina, demonstrations by Iraqi-Americans in El Cajon calling on the U.S. to protect Iraqi Chaldean Christians from ISIS terrorists, and two of California's worst wildfires -- the 2003 Cedar Fire and 2007 firestorms in San Diego County.

East County Magazine gratefully thanks the Facebook Journalism Project for support through its COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund Grant Program to help make this reporting possible. #FacebookJournalismProject. 

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