Three people were arrested after a group of about 80 ransacked a Nordstrom department store in the San Francisco Bay Area on Saturday night in what police believe was an "organized theft."
Police in Walnut Creek, a suburb located about 25 miles east of San Francisco, said employees at the Nordstrom in the city's Broadway Plaza shopping center began calling 911 around 9 p.m. when a crowd entered the store and "immediately began stealing merchandise." Videos on social media showed people running out of the store with large bags and fleeing in vehicles that were parked on the street.
The Walnut Creek Police Department described the incident in a press release Sunday as "clearly a planned event," noting that the department initially received calls about "cars driving recklessly in the area."
Officials said two store employees were assaulted and one was pepper-sprayed. Officers were able to stop one of the fleeing cars and arrested two of its occupants, one of whom was in possession of a firearm, the department said. A third person who was found to be in possession of stolen merchandise was arrested shortly after.
The arrested individuals were identified as Dana Dawson, 30, of San Francisco; Joshua Underwood, 32, of San Francisco; and Rodney Robinson, 18, of Oakland.
"The remaining participants in this criminal mob fled the area in cars at high speeds," the department said in a statement.
Nordstrom did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment Sunday.
A spokesperson for Nordstrom told BuzzFeed News in a statement that five employees sustained minor injuries.
"The safety of our employees and customers is our top priority, and we’re doing everything we can to support them through this situation. We are working with the Walnut Creek Police Department in their active investigation," the spokesperson said in the statement.
The incident came after several high-end retail stores in San Francisco's popular Union Square district were burglarized in a similar fashion Friday night. Dramatic videos showed people rushing out of a Louis Vuitton store with large bags and arms full of merchandise. Police officers were seen banging on the windows of a Ford Mustang outside the store.
San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said during a press conference Saturday that the thieves hit several stores in the area, including Burberry and Bloomingdale's, and that police believe the burglaries were coordinated.
"Their plan was to overwhelm us," Scott said. "Their plan was hoping that we wouldn't be here, but we were."
He noted that police have arrested eight people, most of them young adults, adding that he was "confident that more arrests will follow."
"We will get to the bottom of this as best we can," Scott said.
During the press conference and on social media, San Francisco officials referred to the incidents as "looting," but there was no evidence that the thefts were related to any protests, particularly those arising from the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict. On Friday, a Wisconsin jury acquitted Rittenhouse, who fatally shot two people and wounded another during a protest against police brutality in Kenosha in August 2020.
"Looting" typically describes crimes of burglary in the event of war or riot or, according to California penal code, during emergencies "resulting from an earthquake, fire, flood, riot, or other natural or manmade disaster."
A public information officer for San Francisco Police told BuzzFeed News on Sunday that while police believe the thefts were part of "a concerted effort," they were not connected to any planned protests or demonstrations.
Walnut Creek Police Lt. Holley Connors told BuzzFeed News she did not have any information about a motive for the thefts at Nordstrom or whether they were connected to the incidents in San Francisco.
Scott and San Francisco Mayor London Breed said the city would be making some changes to how traffic flows in the Union Square area to make it harder for people to commit thefts like the ones that happened Friday.
"We have to make it difficult for people to do what they did last night: pull up right next to a business, shatter the windows, go in and wipe out everything that they can carry, and get right in their cars that’s parked at the curb and leave," Scott said. "This is not the first time this has happened, but it’s enough."