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Smash-and-grab looters targeted stores across the country ahead of Thanksgiving and over Black Friday weekend, robbing stores of thousands of dollars in merchandise and even leaving one California security guard dead as he tried to protect a news crew that was reporting on the crimes. 

"We tried to stop them," Home Depot employee Luis Romo told FOX 11 of a "flash mob" targeting the store in Lakewood, California, on Black Friday.

"We closed the front entrance and they put their sledgehammers up and whoever got in the way, they were going to hurt them."

The group of eight robbers stole hammers, crowbars and other tools, swiping about $400 worth of merchandise. Such tools have been used in other smash-and-grab robberies in the state, including in a Nordstrom in Walnut Creek, California, last week. 


The robbers reportedly fled in cars waiting in the parking lot. Police stopped a car with no plates later that night and detained four individuals who may be tied to the robbery. 

A group of five suspects stole about $25,000 in expensive purses from a Nordstrom store in the Westfield Topanga mall in Los Angeles on the eve of Thanksgiving. While a large group also entered a Bottega Veneta in the Beverly Grove section of Los Angeles on Friday and used a chemical agent against one person who tried to stop them as they stole high-end merchandise. 

By late Friday evening, the Los Angeles Police Department was on a citywide tactical alert. The alert has since been lifted. 


A Los Angeles Police Officer Badge. (iStock)

In Monterey, a group of about four people stole an estimated $30,000 worth of sunglasses from a Sunglass Hut. In San Francisco, thieves between the ages of 14 and 18 took more than $20,000 from an Apple store in broad daylight on Wednesday. 

The crimes have also poured into other areas in the country, including in Chicago where police say thieves threw a cinderblock through a Canada Goose store between midnight and 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving and took merchandise. Three other smash-and-grabs unfolded in the city, where thieves targeted a Foot Locker, a North Face store and a cell phone store. 


It is unclear if the robberies are connected or how much merchandise was stolen. Chicago police are investigating. 

In suburban Minneapolis, a large group of at least 30 people targeted a Best Buy in Burnsville, while a group of 10-12 people, including juveniles, targeted another Best Buy in Maplewood. No one has been arrested in connection to the incidents as of Saturday and there are no estimates on how much merchandise was stolen. 

"Across the board, retailers are getting more concerned with this growing trend. … It is definitely a tough problem to solve, given the organized nature and number of people involved in many of the incidents," Chris Walton, a former Target executive who co-leads retail blog and podcast Omni Talk, said of the incidents, according to Star Tribune. 

The most tragic incident unfolded in California, when an Oakland security guard was fatally shot during an armed robbery while protecting a news crew covering a previous smash-and-grab theft.


This undated photo provided by the Town of Colma Police Department, in California, shows former Officer Kevin Nishita. Nishita, a retired police officer and armed guard who provided security for many reporters in the region, was shot in the abdomen during an attempted robbery of KRON-TV's camera equipment in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021. The news crew was covering a recent smash-and-grab robbery of a clothing store. Parts of California have been struck by a rash of organized retail thefts in which bands of thieves break into high-end stores and snatch merchandise. (Brandon Vaccaro/Colma Police Department via AP) A security guard protecting a San Francisco television news crew was shot Wednesday during an attempted armed robbery, authorities said.  (KTVU)

"It is with the deepest sadness that I let you know security guard Kevin Nishita has passed away," said Mark Neerman, vice president of news and news director at KPIX. "He died protecting one of our own, a colleague reporting on the very violence that took his life. I know you join me in sending condolences to his family and in sending thanks to Kevin for standing up for us all."

He was shot in the abdomen during an attempted robbery of KRON-TV’s camera equipment on Wednesday and later died from his injuries.


Nishita was a San Jose police officer from 2001-2012 and was working as an armed guard for Star Protection Agency at the time of his death. He leaves behind his wife, two children and three grandchildren. A reward of $32,500 is being offered for information that leads to an arrest in the killing. 

Smash-and-grab robberies have plagued California in the last week, with most of the incidents occurring in stores near San Francisco and Los Angeles. 

In Walnut Creek, which is located about 25 miles from SF, roughly 80 looters stormed a Nordstrom and took somewhere between $100,000 to $200,000 in merchandise, according to police. 

Mobs of thieves ransacked at least two dozen San Francisco area businesses over last weekend. 

"At least two dozen businesses were impacted," Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong told CBS SF. "Roving caravans of vehicles, targeting cannabis operations, retail shops, pharmacies, throughout the city of Oakland."

The crimes also extended to San Jose, about 50 miles from San Francisco, where at least four people stole $40,000 from a Lululemon in an incident described by police as "organized robbery."

Gov. Gavin Newsom has called on California mayors to "step up" and hold the mobs of shoplifters to "account" following the repeated crimes. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a news conference after receiving a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine booster shot at Asian Health Services in Oakland, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. Also pictured are Assemblymember Mia Bonta, third from bottom right, Supervisor Wilma Chan and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, right. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu) 

"I'm not the mayor of California, but I was a mayor, and I know when things like this happen, mayors have to step up," Newsom said Monday at a vaccine clinic in the Mission District of San Francisco. "That’s not an indictment. That’s not a cheap shot."

"These people need to be held to account," Newsom added. "We need to investigate these crimes. We need to break up these crime rings. We need to make an example out of these folks."

In San Francisco, Mayor London Breed announced that the city will limit car access ahead of holiday shopping season to the city’s popular shopping district, Union Square, in response to the mobs of thieves.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 17: San Francisco Mayor London Breed speaks during a news conference outside of Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital with essential workers to mark the one year anniversary of the COVID-19 lockdown on March 17, 2021 in San Francisco, California. San Francisco has some of the lowest number of coronavirus cases and death rates in the country with only 422 deaths in a city with a population near 900,000.  (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Some police and retailers pointed to California’s Proposition 47 for the increase in crimes, which reduced shoplifting charges regarding the theft of $950 or less from felonies to misdemeanors. 

In 2018, state legislators passed a temporary law in response to complaints surrounding the law, which established a new crime of organized retail theft. A California Highway Patrol task force was also created to help assist areas with high instances of such crimes. The law expired at the start of this year, however, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.


"I think what happens now is there's no accountability for it anymore, and the liability for the stores if they try to apprehend these guys. They just stand by and watch," Steve Reed, a retired police officer and the former head of security at Arden Fair Mall in Sacramento, told ABC 10. 

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UPDATE: San Francisco District Attorneys Office Refutes Claims Made in Chinatown Attack Victims Lawsuit

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office on Thursday refuted a number of claims made in a lawsuit filed against the DA’s Office earlier this week by the victim in a 2019 Chinatown attack.

The release issued by the office of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin questioned a number of elements presented by victim Anh Lê and the lawyers representing him in the suit that was filed in federal court against the DA’s office.

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The 69-year-old Lê said during a Tuesday news conference about the lawsuit that he was beaten with a baseball bat by a father-son duo while walking in Chinatown in November 2019.

“It was the most brutal, terrifying and humiliating experience of my life,” said Ahn Lê of San Francisco.

The release issued Thursday noted that Le’s Nov. 2, 2019 confrontation with Tanner, who uses a wheelchair, was “over Mr. Tanner’s 11 year-old son pushing a bicycle on the sidewalk. Mr. Lê confronted Mr. Tanner and his family about taking up the sidewalk.”

The DA’s office said that Tanner’s young son allegedly swung a plastic bat at Le several times. Additionally, the DA’s office said Tanner intervened and made verbal threats against Le while holding a Snapple bottle, however the release noted that “photographs taken by police at the scene do not depict any physical injuries to Mr. Lê.”

Tanner was arrested by SFPD officers and charged with making criminal threats against Le, elder abuse and battery, but police did not arrest him on any hate crime charges.

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Interim District Attorney Suzy Loftus filed charges against Tanner in connection with the incident four days later without any hate crime charges.

On April 12, 2021, the case was resolved in court with a plea deal to a battery charge, which included probation and a stayaway order. The release stated that Lê “was not present at that court date despite repeated contact from our office.”

In the lawsuit, Lê said his rights as a victim were ignored and that he wasn’t informed that Tanner was given the option to plead guilty to a misdemeanor.

Prosecutors shared in court that Le was calling for Tanner to be sentenced to state prison and wanted his child to be prosecuted. In the release, the DA’s Office victim advocate who had been assigned to the case when charges were filed in 2019 said she had some contact with Lê, but also had difficulty connecting with him, attempting to contact Lê by phone, email, and mail over two dozen times.

“In his lawsuit, Mr. Lê falsely asserted that our office settled the case without consulting him or receiving any input from him. This is not accurate,” the release from the DA’s office stated. “Mr. Lê and the advocate communicated many times, but for a period of weeks, Mr. Lê did not respond to repeated messages from the advocate. The advocate also specifically reached out to Mr. Le before the case resolved and indicated that the case might resolve and that the assigned prosecutor wanted to discuss the potential resolution with him. Mr. Lê did not respond to repeated efforts to reach him about the potential resolution. Nonetheless, following the case resolution, the advocate again reached out to Mr. Le to inform him of the resolution and express a desire to talk to him about it.”

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“Given the lawsuit’s significant mischaracterizations of the events in this case — which have understandably led many community members to be upset and undermines the trust between crime victims and their advocates — we believe it is important to share correct information about the underlying case and explain the work of our office and our victim advocate in this case,” Chief of Victim Services Division Kasie Lee said in the release. “We also want to provide reassurance to victims that they will receive comprehensive services when working with our advocates. We will continue to do everything we can to support victims.”

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