San Francisco Dist. Atty. Chesa Boudin said Tuesday that he has charged nine people with felonies in a series of shoplifting incidents that included a mass smash-and-grab at Union Square luxury stores.
At least 40 thieves allegedly broke into a Louis Vuitton store on Friday, grabbing whatever they could before loading it into a series of cars parked curbside out front. The shoplifting caravan cut a swath through San Francisco's high-end boutiques, creating a scene of chaos while stealing more than $1 million in merchandise.
Boudin said two of the nine people were charged for possession of firearms during the Friday incident. He said the nine face charges of grand theft, commercial burglary and possession of stolen goods at the felony level.
"These are not petty thefts. These are not misdemeanor conduct. This is felony conduct," Boudin said. "We are charging felonies today."
The district attorney said he would seek in court to keep two of those charged behind bars because of the nature of their alleged crimes.
The liberal prosecutor is facing a recall election in June because of what his critics say is a lenient approach toward criminals.
The district attorney's office said five people were arrested in connection with the incident at the Louis Vuitton store, three others for burglarizing a cannabis dispensary and one for burglarizing a Walgreens.
Francill White, Tomiko Lamar Miller, Kimberly Cherry and Ivan Speed are each charged in the Louis Vuitton incident with felony looting during a state of emergency, felony second-degree commercial burglary, felony grand theft and felony receiving stolen property. Jamisi Callaway, who was a passenger in one of the getaway cars from Union Square, faces a series of felony weapons charges, including possession of a firearm with a prior felony, carrying a loaded firearm, having a concealed firearm and misdemeanor resisting arrest.
In connection with the dispensary break-in, Raymond Phillips, Edward James Jr. and Michael Ray face charges of felony looting, felony commercial burglary, felony stolen property possession and misdemeanor resisting arrest.
Daron Wilson, arrested for the Walgreens break-in, is charged with felony looting, felony commercial burglary, carrying a loaded firearm, having a concealed firearm and misdemeanor resisting arrest.
San Francisco Assistant Police Chief Mike Redmond, appearing with Boudin, announced that extra uniformed officers will be deployed to shopping areas and a traffic plan put in place "to keep cars out of the area if we see things ramp up downtown."
Redmond said he expects many more arrests in the Union Square shoplifting incidents and indicated that the series of mob rip-offs around the Bay Area that began in San Francisco may be connected.
"We believe it is a lot of the same groups involved," he said.
Several stores in and around Market Street have boarded up, not leaving anything to chance in the coming days.
In the California crime wave that began Friday night, criminals also targeted Burberry and Hermes stores, as well as an eyeglass shop and cannabis dispensaries.
On a Saturday night raid of a Nordstrom in nearby Walnut Creek just before closing time, some 80 people jumped out of a pack of cars, flash-mob style, and swarmed the aisles, many escaping with the merchandise. Two employees were assaulted, one of them pepper-sprayed.
Then, just after midnight Sunday, criminals used a sledgehammer to smash storefront windows at a Louis Vuitton and Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills, police said, but patrol cars arrived to scare the thieves off before they could get inside.
The mayhem continued later Sunday with stores targeted in the East Bay and San Jose. Late Monday, a group attempted to break into Nordstrom at the Grove shopping center in Los Angeles before leading police on a high-speed chase. Los Angeles officers arrested three people on suspicion of theft.
On Tuesday, San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said in an interview, "We are going to do everything we can to put a stop to this craziness." But, he added, "we don't have to shut down Union Square."
Instead, he said, his officers are going to prevent people from pulling up in front of stores like Louis Vuitton. "In these spots, people were pulling up right in front and then running in the store, grabbing what they could and jumping back in their vehicles. We are going to disrupt that."
Scott said he is also placing enough officers in such areas to prevent a mob of 40 or 50 people from overwhelming store security, as happened last week.
The chief said his investigators have hours of security video footage; he expects that many suspects who are still at large will be apprehended. "There is no doubt in my mind it was planned — the number of stores hit in that close proximity," he said.
Gov. Gavin Newsom described the incidents as “people smashing and grabbing, stealing people’s items, creating havoc, terror in the streets.” Newsom said he was speaking not just as governor but as a business owner.
“My business has been broken into three times this year,” said Newsom, who owns a hospitality company that includes wine shops and restaurants. “I have no empathy, no sympathy for these folks, and they must be held to account.”
Newsom said a state task force had conducted 773 investigations and recovered nearly $20 million worth of stolen merchandise. He added that the California Highway Patrol would immediately increase its presence “in and around areas that are highly trafficked” as the holiday shopping season peaks.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.