It started ominously, as not-so-subtle chatter on small, “underground” sites and forums, all promising – threatening – an awakening for East Bay cities and towns.
That chatter seemed to gain weight around 4:58 p.m. Sunday as carloads of people, most of them masked and hooded, began to arrive in Walnut Creek, walking in groups and against traffic as stunned shoppers gawped in disbelief, the groups coalescing like pools of mercury before spreading out to attack stores and businesses downtown.
Groups of rioter/looters armed with crowbars struck at H&M, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Macy’s, and several other smaller stores, smashing windows or battering their way inside to loot just about anything they could grab.
Walnut Creek police, which had been monitoring the groups before they came together and engaged in an apparently organized effort to sack local stores, were briefly caught off guard, asking for more officers from surrounding jurisdictions and issuing a call for a 6 p.m. curfew.
Broadway Plaza was hit hard, with groups running at will and striking multiple stores simultaneously, making off with anything they could grab. About an hour into the spree, a car with two men aboard apparently fired shots near the now-closed KoJa Kitchen store on Olympic Boulevard – hitting a woman in the arm before fleeing in the direction of the freeway.
It could not be confirmed at this writing if police were able to find the suspects.
For a brief time residents trapped downtown expressed hope that the rioters would tire and move off, and for a while it appears that groups of them did, hitting businesses in Lafayette, Concord and Pleasant Hill.
At 7:31 p.m., with curfew in effect, police – many in SWAT uniform – had secured much of Broadway Plaza, deploying tear gas as needed and setting up skirmish lines to protect threatened businesses.
But groups of rioters managed to filter back into the area, engaging in a cat-and-mouse game of tag with police and looting at every opportunity.