As protests over the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd turned violent Sunday night, hundreds of looters targeted a car dealership in San Leandro.
By the time police arrived, at least 78 cars had filed out of the parking lot: Dodge Chargers, Jeep Wranglers, Jeep Cherokees.
Looters even drove off in high-end Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcats, which sell for about $90,000 each, authorities said.
“Looters [were] vandalizing the store or even burglarizing the store, getting access to the keys, and taking cars,” San Leandro Police Lt. Ted Henderson said.
So far, about 30 of the stolen vehicles have been located, and some are damaged, police said.
Nearby Oakland had seen two nights of unrest, with widespread looting and vandalism, including the lighting of several fires. San Leandro police were expecting to help with that city’s patrols, and officials said they were caught off-guard when problems began.
"[We], like many other agencies, were planning to join the Oakland Police Department in their city to help with their riots because that’s where we thought all of the riots were going to happen. It wasn’t until much later that we learned it [was] going to take place in San Leandro,” Henderson said.
Looting began in San Leandro at the Marina Square Center, across the street from the car dealership, in the afternoon.
A Nike Clearance Store was completely emptied, with “nothing left but racks and hangers,” Henderson said. That evening, thieves targeted the the dealership, driving away with cars throughout the night and early morning.
Henderson said the looting was rampant throughout the city, and officers were spread thin.
“When we controlled one area of town, another area of town was left without police. Without police in the area, [looters] had a large amount of time to wreak havoc in those areas,” he said. “For a while there, we were on an island to ourselves, we were overwhelmed.”
The Police Department hadn’t expected problems Sunday night, and a citywide curfew was not posted until 11 p.m. — but by then, plenty of damage had already occurred.
Carlos Hidalgo, the dealership’s owner, said that over $2.7 million worth of cars were stolen by 10:30 p.m. Sunday, as mayhem raged across much of the Bay Area.
“Oh, it was a war zone,” he told KRON-TV Channel 4.
As police arrived at different stores — Walmart, Home Depot and Costco — anywhere from 50 to 100 looters would rush out, police said. But at the area surrounding the car dealership, Henderson said there were “hundreds of looters, if not thousands.”
San Leandro police haven’t arrested anyone in connection with the car thefts, though a few drivers have been arrested by other departments at traffic stops.
The San Leandro Police Department is continuing to investigate the thefts, using fingerprints, photographs and other evidence, and Henderson said they may pursue arrests in the future.