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Anaheim braces for more unrest after police shootings

July 26, 2012 |  4:59 am

Anaheim city officials are bracing for more protests -- including one scheduled for Friday -- in the wake of two fatal officer-involved shootings.

Police officials said they will not tolerate more violence and said officers will be out in force. Unrest on Tuesday brought hours of chaos to downtown Anaheim and left 20 businesses damaged.

"Anaheim is a strong community and a community that works together to solve its problems," Mayor Tom Tait said at a news conference Wednesday morning. "I think it's important for city officials to hear from people we serve … but violence and vandalism have no part in the conversation."

Photos: Protest against Anaheim police shootings

Residents remained on edge, many claiming family members and friends remained in jail after the confrontation with police on Saturday evening.

Yolanda Delgado, 68, a longtime Anaheim resident, saw a group of young looters smashing the windows of a T-shirt store Tuesday night and began yelling at them.

At one point she scuffled with a young woman who she said was trying to steal shoelaces. The young woman punched her and bloodied her lip.

Delgado said she was incensed that rioters were destroying the property of innocent people. “I was ashamed of them -- the stupidity, the ignorance,” she said. “This is what the Latino community is trying to [alleviate]. They’re tired of being known just as thieves or gardeners or housekeepers.”

Rusty Kennedy, executive director of Orange County Human Relations, said anger over the weekend shootings reflects wider woes in Anaheim’s poorest communities, which suffer from unemployment, overcrowding and gang activity.

“It’s a hot summer, school's out, and frustrations from the economy are certainly being felt,” Kennedy said. “There are really good families in these neighborhoods that are just struggling to survive. They have fears their child will get in between the gang members and police.”

The FBI has agreed to review one of the shootings.

Anaheim officials said they have also asked state officials to launch a review of that Saturday incident, which is already being probed by the Orange County district attorney. The district attorney has asked the public to share any photos or video of the Saturday shooting and its aftermath.

During unrest Tuesday night, people grabbed rocks from a construction site at Santa Ana Street and Anaheim Boulevard and hurled them at officers. Others in the area ignited a fire in the weeds and in trash bins as they were chased by police.

PHOTOS: Protests against Anaheim police shootings

Anaheim Police Chief John Welter said the crowd grew to more than 1,000 at times. Protests were allowed to continue, he said, until the violence escalated and became threatening to police and others in the area.

After an unlawful assembly was declared, Welter said a smaller group of 50 to 100 protesters continued roaming the streets of downtown Anaheim, damaging public property and throwing rocks and bottles. Police employed nonlethal tactics, including batons, pepper-spray balls and bean bags. Two Orange County Register reporters were injured -- one hit in the head with a rock, another with a projectile to the foot -- while covering the melee. Police said four others were also injured.

"We will not allow riotous, dangerous violations of the law by anyone," Welter said.

A total of 24 people were arrested, including four juveniles. In addition to businesses, the Police Department building and City Hall also sustained damaged, Welter said.

The arrests included offenses such as assault with a deadly weapon, possession of a handgun, failure to disperse and resisting arrest.

Police said they will be reviewing video footage from Tuesday night's protests to arrest those who engaged in illegal activity.

Anaheim police were still assessing the fallout from the unrest.

"I think that given the totality of the circumstances, actually things turned out very good," said Sgt. Robert Dunn, a spokesman for the Anaheim Police Department.

Photos: Protest against Anaheim police shootings

At the northeast corner of Water Street and Anaheim Boulevard, the lights of Don Leonardo's Taqueria were on. The owners, Francisco Hernandez and his wife, Alma, were returning from church when they discovered a mob of people had damaged their building. Expletives about the police were written on the side of their business, much like in other parts of the neighborhood.

"We're very upset about this," Hernandez said. "We had nothing to do with what has happened in the city."

Hernandez also discovered that trash cans from their corner house had been moved to the intersection and had been set on fire. At least one of them had been melted down to its wheels.

After a few minutes of sweeping glass, a friend of the couple discovered that a second window had been broken. Hernandez said replacing the windows would cost about $700. 

"At least they weren't throwing rocks at some of the windows of the nearby homes," he said.


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