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NBA Finals: Title party turned ugly in downtown L.A.

Associated Press
LOS ANGELES ó Looting and vandalism that broke out in the aftermath of the Los Angeles Lakers’ basketball championship won’t keep the city from celebrating the team’s victory: City officials and the Lakers are footing the bill for a victory parade they hope will overshadow unrest the police chief blames on a mob of “knuckleheads.”
Police reviewed security video and media images Monday to identify suspects who caused damage downtown the night before. Police Chief William Bratton said many known gang members were in the crowd.
“These knuckleheads seem to really relish their opportunity in the dark,” Bratton said.
A victory parade was being planned for Wednesday, and the Los Angeles Times reported that Lakers and the city will kick in about $1 million apiece for the party.
The police union, citing the city’s financial crisis, demanded that the Lakers pay all costs.
Bratton said in an interview, however, that policing costs had yet to be determined, though he understood that the business community planned to step up assistance.
Fans eagerly buying Lakers’ gear at the downtown Team LA store on Monday expressed disgust over the disturbance.
“It’s uncalled for, it’s a shame and it’s embarrassing for a lot of us in Los Angeles,” said Mark Scoggins, 48.
“It was ridiculous, it was definitely not the right way to celebrate,” said Alex Ramirez, 27.
Trouble erupted Sunday night in the area around Staples Center, the Lakers’ home court, even though the team won its 15th National Basketball Association championship in Florida, defeating the Orlando Magic 99-86 in Game 5 of the final series.
Street celebrations that began peacefully turned ugly. Fires were set, objects were thrown at police officers, several businesses were looted and buses, police cars and other vehicles were vandalized. Hooligans hurled rocks through the window of one bus abandoned under an overpass.
Eight police officers were injured and 18 people were arrested Sunday night.
Two more people were arrested Monday when neighbors of a looted shoe store alerted authorities to two residents of an adjacent building.
When officers knocked on their door they saw shoe boxes inside the apartment, said police Sgt. Mark Pearce. The two people, who were not immediately identified, were booked for investigation of theft.
Inside The Holy Grail shoe store, shelves were empty and glass display cases were shattered. Receipts, paperwork and shoe boxes were scattered around a back storeroom.
Store owner Richard Torres said he lost at least $100,000 worth of vintage sneakers and sports apparel, as well as computers.
More than anything, he was upset because much of the stolen merchandise was burned.
“It would be different if we got burglarized, but they were literally lighting stuff on fire,” said Torres, whose business usually does well after games when sports fans stop in.
“For this to happen, it leaves a sour taste,” he said.
Torres and store manager Liz Sanchez could not understand why police were unable to prevent the looting. Sanchez said witnesses told her that the store was targeted when one person started shouting “Who wants shoes?” The door was then pushed in.
At a Shell gas station, assistant manager Jorge Osorio said looters took candy and sodas from its convenience store and fled.
“So now we just clean up and move on,” he said.
Bratton told KNX radio that the Police Department was adequately prepared with resources staged in different areas of the city.

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