On Saturday, a Nordstrom about 20 miles outside of San Francisco was attacked by a mob of roughly 80 looters who ransacked the store in an apparently highly-coordinated assault, ABC News reports.
The attack unfolded in the evening when over 20 cars suddenly pulled up in front of the Broadway Plaza mall in Walnut Creek, blocking the street in front of the Nordstrom. The dozens of rioters then flooded out of the cars and entered the building, stealing merchandise and assaulting employees before jumping back into the waiting cars and fleeing the scene. Employees were attacked physically and with weapons such as pepper spray.
Numerous videos taken on cell phones in the area captured the rapidity with which the assault took place, and then ended just as quickly. Once it became apparent what was happening, bystanders took shelter or fled the dangerous scene. The manager of a nearby P.F. Chang’s restaurant, Brett Barrette, said he immediately locked all his doors when he realized what was taking place.
“We probably saw 50 to 80 people in ski masks, crowbars, a bunch of weapons,” Barrette told the local press in the aftermath of the assault.
A statement by the Walnut Creek Police Department described it as “clearly a planned event.” Three participants were successfully arrested while the vast majority got away, as the overwhelming majority of attackers were wearing masks. The department said that “investigators are in the process of reviewing surveillance footage to attempt to identify other suspects responsible for this brazen act.”
The incident reflects a rising trend in the state of California, and particularly the heavily-populated San Francisco Bay Area, where thieves have become emboldened by the state’s relaxation of laws and criminal penalties against shoplifting. After a recent law made it no longer a crime to steal merchandise as long as the value of the stolen goods is less than $1,000, looters have committed robbery in broad daylight in many pharmacies, retail outlets, and other establishments. As a result, some chains have been forced to close many of their stores in the Bay Area to avoid further damage and loss of revenue in stolen products.