PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (WPHL) – Philadelphia police announced Wednesday that 52 people have been arrested after a large group of looters ransacked various businesses in the bustling Center City neighborhood on Tuesday night.
In the most recent update, police say 49 adults and 3 juveniles have been arrested. The counts filed include burglary and theft, among others, according to Jane Roh, spokesperson for the Philadelphia district attorney’s office.
Philadelphia Police say the crime spree began around 7:30 p.m. when officers received numerous 911 calls and reports of a looting happening at the Foot Locker on 1500 Chestnut Street.
According to police, a large group of juveniles, possibly as many as 100, had ransacked the store in what police are calling “a coordinated attack”.
The chaos started around 7:30 p.m. prompting numerous 911 calls reporting a large group, possibly as many as 100 or so, moving through Center City, which is home to both skyscrapers and historic sites such as the Liberty Bell and Independence hall.
At 8:12 p.m, police were notified about another looting at a Lululemon store at 1700 Walnut Street where officers arrested multiple individuals. Video posted to social media shows police tackling a few suspects to the ground as others run from the store, evading the officers.
Minutes later, police received another call for a looting at the Apple Store on 1600 Walnut Street. No arrests were made but numerous stolen items have since been recovered, police said. Social media video showed some of the suspects smashing phones and tablets on the ground after realizing that they had been automatically disabled and alarms were going off.
The flash mob-style ransacking Tuesday night came after a peaceful protest over a judge’s decision to dismiss murder and other charges against a Philadelphia police officer who shot and killed a driver, Eddie Irizarry, through a rolled-up window.
Those doing the ransacking were not affiliated with the protest, Interim Police Commissioner John Stanford said at a news conference, calling the group “a bunch of criminal opportunists.”
At least 18 state-run liquor stores were broken into, leading the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to close all 48 of its Philadelphia retail locations and one in suburban Cheltenham on Wednesday. No employees were hurt Tuesday night, but “some were understandably shaken,” said liquor board spokesperson Shawn Kelly.
The stores were “closed in the interest of employee safety and while we assess the damage and loss that occurred. We will reopen stores when it is safe to do so and when the damage is repaired,” Kelly said.
Throughout the night, officers gathered information from social media, which police suspect was used to organize the mass destruction. Police are also investigating “that there was possibly a caravan of a number of different vehicles that were going from location to location.” Video posted to social media showed people hanging out of cars in a shopping center parking lot, appearing to yell directions to one another.
“This destructive and illegal behavior cannot and will not be tolerated in our city,” said Mayor Jim Kenney, a Democrat, calling it a “sickening display of opportunistic criminal activity.”
Besides the lootings around the city, police say the individuals also vandalized three properties and one police vehicle. Police are still investigating why these incidents occurred but say at least 76 incidents occurred throughout the night.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.