Huntington Beach police made eight arrests and will continue to look for offenders following about two hours of fights, vandalism and other violence at the end of the Van's U.S. Open of Surfing, authorities said. City leaders, meanwhile, pledged to take a look at what happened to prevent a replay of this weekend's rioting. Mayor Connie Boardman, appearing at an afternoon news conference with the chief of police and city council members, said a task force would be assembled soon.
``Our downtown task force, including residents, business owners and the city council, will be formed within the next two weeks, and I am confident that the task force will develop recommendations to make this event safer next year,'' Boardman said. The city was also going to launch a ``dedicated website'' to help law enforcement track down culprits, Boardman said.
``Although this year's U.S. Open of Surfing ended on an undesirable note, this event has always been enjoyed by our residents, tourists and families, however, we do know this impacts on our downtown residents and city,'' Boardman said.
Police Chief Kenneth Small thanked neighboring law enforcement for pitching in to quell the disturbances and applauded his officers for showing restraint. ``We were able to quickly bring the incident under control last night,'' Small said. ``There were very few minor injuries and there was some, but minimal, damage to public and private property. In order to bring this incident under control, there was limited and measured use of force by law enforcement officers, including the use of pepper balls and non-lethal projectiles.''
``However, I want to make clear that the law enforcement officers in my view used a great deal of restraint when facing a barrage of bottles, bricks, rocks and other devices being thrown at them from a crowd of people who repeatedly failed to disperse after being ordered to do so, the chief said.'' Several officers sustained minor injuries and at least one person in the crowd was taken to an area hospital and was later released after being struck with a rubber bullet, Huntington Beach police Lt. Mitch O'Brien said.
The chief went on to say he was saddened the annual event was tarred. ``Each year the U.S. Open of Surfing is a draw to hundreds of thousands of people from around the world to enjoy Huntington Beach and the beauty of our city,'' Small said. ``We are by far one of the safest communities in America. I am saddened that a small group of people created last night's disturbance and left a blemish on what was otherwise a safe and fun nine-day event.
``The police department is committed to doing everything possible to identify those responsible for last night's disturbance and ensure that they are held criminally responsible for their actions. In fact, we have already identified some of the suspects and our detectives will be working closely with the district attorney's office to file criminal charges against them and arrest them as quickly as possible,'' the chief said.
Any evidence can be sent to an email address set up by city officials, email@example.com. Tips also may be phoned in to a city hotline at (714) 375-5066.
The eight suspects arrested were identified as:
--Michael John Lytle, 30, of Anaheim, who was booked on suspicion of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest;
--Andres Gomez, 24, of Huntington Beach, who was booked on suspicion of refusing to disperse and resisting arrest;
--Michael Anthony Avila, 28, of Santa Ana, who was booked on suspicion of resisting or delaying a police officer;
--Joseph Monterrosa, 28, of Ontario, who was booked on suspicion of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest;
--Adam A. Cecot, 18, of Irvine, who was booked on suspicion of refusing to disperse and unlawful assembly;
--Chase Scott Christman, 19, of Simi Valley, who was booked on suspicion of vandalism, urging destruction of property, refusal to disperse and unlawful assembly;
--Kyle Roger Crott, 18, of Riverside, who was booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer and resisting arrest.
``Damage included damage to city vehicles, portable toilets, newspaper racks, broken windows and street signs,'' O'Brien said.
It started about 7 p.m. at Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway, following the final day of the eight-day surfing competition.
``A large fight broke out, and when officers attempted to break up the disturbance, the crowd moved into the downtown area,'' O'Brien said. ``The crowds began fighting, damaging property and refused to disburse,'' he said. Video from the scene showed officers standing on broken glass from downtown business windows and firing pepper rounds at some of the young men they pushed away.
People noted on Facebook that there were several videos on YouTube and Instagram clearly showing vandals' faces that should prove helpful to investigators.