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Westwood Shopkeepers Clean Up After Riot, Looting

March 10, 1991

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Shopkeepers in trendy Westwood swept up broken glass, boarded up windows and calculated looting damage Saturday left by hundreds of rioters who went on a rampage after a movie theater oversold tickets for the film ″New Jack City.″

Police estimated up to 1,500 people joined the 2 1/2 -hour melee Friday in the bustling movie, dining and shopping district fronting the University of California, Los Angeles, campus, Lt. Douglas Pilot said.

″It was out of control for a while,″ Pilot said. ″Looters were seen battering people, knocking them down as they went.″

Also Friday, police in Las Vegas, Nev., said they arrested 15 people, including some gang members, after breaking up a fight that began in the lobby of a theater showing the film.

″It appears that they got sort of pumped,″ said Las Vegas police Sgt. Mike Dailey.

Most arrests were for disturbing the peace, but authorities said one man was arrested for investigation of carrying a machine gun. No serious injuries were reported.

Mario Van Peebles, director and co-star of ″New Jack City,″ said an altercation nearly occurred at a Friday night showing of the film that he saw in the Universial City section of Los Angeles. He said the size of the crowd was to blame. He said the movie itself doesn’t inspire violence.

″The crowd is not rowdy unless they find they cannot find seats,″ he said.

In Westwood, nine people were booked for investigation of looting, throwing a rock at a passing police cruiser, and other charges, he said, adding that three were juveniles.

At least 21 stores were vandalized in the disturbance that erupted when hundreds of angry moviegoers were turned away from the Mann Westwood Theater about 10 p.m.

″Basically, we had a theater playing a new movie ... and it oversold the theater,″ Sgt. Nick Barbara said.

Rioters jumped on cars, knocked down passersby, scattered garbage, smashed storefront windows and stole merchandise in the pricey business district about 10 miles west of downtown Los Angeles.

Despite the damage, most merchants were open Saturday.

″Clothes were thrown all over the store, glass was all over,″ said Randi Posner, manager of the Guess? clothing store near the theater.

″We lost three big picture windows,″ said Chip Avery, manager of the Wherehouse music store around the corner from the theater. ″They took a couple hundred CDs.″ He estimated the store lost $3,000 in merchandise.

″It was just grab and run. They weren’t looking at what they were taking,″ he said. ″The beginning part of the alphabet is what it was, because it was closest to the windows.″

″New Jack City,″ a drama about drug-dealing street gangs, stars Wesley Snipes, Judd Nelson and rapper Ice-T. Police said the disturbance did not appear to be gang-related.

Theater officials referred questions to Mann’s executive office in Los Angeles. Calls to the office were answered by a recording machine.

A tape recording at the Mann Westwood Theater box office said Saturday that all showings of ″New Jack City″ were canceled. Recordings at other Los Angeles-area theaters, including other Mann theaters, said the movie was playing Saturday night as scheduled.

Reporter Mike Horowitz of KCBS-TV was slightly injured when he was attacked by a group of youths as he called in a story from the scene. He was not hospitalized, said KCBS assignment editor Reuben Green.

It was not the first time violence broke out in the busy movie theater district. In August, hundreds of youths, some dressed in gang attire, rampaged through the area, beating up moviegoers and pedestrians.

In 1988, the slaying of a young woman caught in a gang shootout prompted a citywide crackdown on street gang.

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