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L.A. officials urge city to 'celebrate responsibly' if teams win

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined police and fire officials outside Staples Center on Wednesday to discuss the arrest of a man in an arson case after the Lakers' 2010 NBA championship victory and urge sports fans to "celebrate responsibly" next time around.

Los Angeles officials Wednesday announced the arrest of Darren Cooper, 22, an unemployed San Bernardino man, in the torching of a taxicab after the Lakers won the 2010 NBA title.

"For those who use these occasions to commit illegal acts, know that we will find you, we will arrest you and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law," Villaraigosa said.

Cooper is alleged to have been part of an unruly group that smashed and set the cab on fire near Staples Center on June 17, 2010. He was in jail in San Bernardino on a domestic violence charge when Los Angeles officials arrested him about two weeks ago on suspicion of arson, said Michael Greenup, the L.A. Fire Department’s arson counterterrorism chief.

Cooper is free on bail and has not been arraigned, Greenup said. Five others suspected in the incident still are being sought as police and fire investigators continue to analyze images of criminal behavior gleaned from videos, business surveillance cameras, TV news footage, Twitter pictures, Facebook pages and other social media sites.

In the disturbance after the 2010 championship, some people roamed downtown streets, breaking windows, throwing things at police and vandalizing public and private property. At least 45 people were arrested at the time on suspicion of arson, battery, public drunkenness, inciting a riot, disturbing the peace and vandalism.

Officials said Wednesday that such behavior cannot be tolerated, even if they grow out of sports celebrations.

"The message today is simple: Celebrate safely, celebrate responsibly," Councilwoman Jan Perry said.

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-- Kim Christensen

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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