Police in Northern California are searching for suspects after looters stole more than 70 premium cars in the Bay Area on Sunday, according to a dealership owner and authorities.
San Leandro Chrysler Dodge Jeep dealership owner Carlos Hidalgo told FOX2 in Oakland that he blocked the exits but thieves “started ramming, ramming until they could get out.”
“They took out chains and fence posts. It was a very malicious act,” he said.
The incident took place as peaceful protests, arson incidents, riots, and lootings took place in the Bay Area over the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis last week. Nationwide protests have ensued following his death.
“You walk in [and] it’s like a war zone,” Hidalgo said. “It’s not a cause for anybody. This is just bad thieves. It’s horrible. This is domestic terrorism brought upon to people that work. That’s not right.”
He said that thieves first looted a Nike store across the street before moving onto the dealership. Nearly all of the dealership’s $90,000 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcats were stolen, Hidalgo said.
San Leandro Police Department Lt. Ted Henderson told local media that he’s not sure if it was planned or a spur-of-the-moment crime. No arrests have been made, although police are searching social media for video footage.
“The events in Minneapolis have re-opened old, raw wounds and forced us to confront societal injustices that need to be addressed,” Chief Jeff Tudor wrote in a statement on the department’s Facebook page. “Those who peacefully protested have started that conversation. But those who have looted and stoked violence in our community are hurting that effort.”
Henderson told SFGate that around 20 to 25 of the dealership’s vehicles have been recovered. Some were damaged.
“We tried calling the cops and they were too busy,” Hidalgo told a local CBS affiliate. “They couldn’t respond.”
On the same night, the Walmart in San Leandro was also vandalized, its shelves emptied, and a fire was set. A See’s Candy, a Subway, a Burlington Coat Factory, and other businesses were also vandalized or looted.
But on Tuesday, protests were largely peaceful and the nation’s streets were calmer than they have been in days. Earlier curfews and efforts by protesters to contain the lawlessness prevented more widespread damage to businesses in New York and other cities overnight.
By Wednesday morning, arrests had grown to more than 9,000 nationwide since the vandalism, arson, and shootings erupted around the country in reaction to Floyd’s death May 25 in Minneapolis. At least 12 deaths have been reported, though the circumstances in many cases are still being sorted out.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.