Mobs of Teens Loot Philadelphia Stores
Mobs of Teens Loot Philadelphia Stores

By Beth Brelje

Philadelphia police are calling the Sept. 26 evening looting of stores by teenagers in several areas a “coordinated attack.”

Mobs of masked teens were seen stuffing plastic bags with merchandise and fleeing from Foot Locker, Lululemon, and Apple stores.

Calls to 911 from stores and citizens began flooding in just before 8 p.m. and continued as looters moved from one store to another.

Just before the first call, patrolling officers noticed an increased presence of juveniles roaming in Philadelphia’s Center City business corridor of the 9th District.

In a proactive measure, officers from the 9th District stopped a group of boys dressed in black and wearing masks at the intersection of 17th and Chestnut streets, a statement from the police said.

As officers talked with the teens, the first calls to 911 came in, alerting authorities to looting taking place at the nearby Foot Locker on Chestnut Street.

Police officers arrived at Foot Locker at 7:58 p.m. and found it had been ransacked. A number of juveniles fled from the store but at least one adult was arrested, police said.

At 8:12 p.m., looting was reported at Lululemon on Walnut Street. Here, officers apprehended multiple individuals involved in the looting.

Next, at 8:18 p.m., a radio call reported looting at the Apple Store situated on Walnut Street. No arrests were made at this time in connection with this incident, police said. The store sustained losses in terms of phones and tablets, although numerous stolen items have since been recovered.

Law enforcement secured the area, locking down Walnut Street between the 1400 and 1800 blocks at 8:40 p.m. and Chestnut Street between the 1400 and 1800 blocks at 9:10 p.m.

Between 15 and 20 people were arrested in connection with the incident. The Philadelphia Police Department said it’s actively investigating these incidents and working to identify and apprehend others who were involved.

Social Media Videos

In social media videos, excited teenage boys and girls are seen jumping up and down, yelling “Free iPhones! Free iPhones!” They laugh, “Look at security running!” One looter flashes his hands at the camera, barely able to hold all six iPhones that he’d taken from the store.

Another video shows a man in a hooded sweatshirt grabbing armloads of clothing off the ground and shoving them into the backseat of a waiting car, while another man runs toward him with both arms wrapped around a mound of clothing.

One chaotic video shows three or more looters resisting arrest by four police officers as the girl shooting the video laughs and squeals. Other looters run out of the store past the busy police officers. An officer wrestles a suspect to the ground and a large tangle of clothing that had been spewed onto the sidewalk by looters creates a soft landing for the suspect.

The ransacking came after a 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 involved in the looting weren’t affiliated with the protest, Interim Police Commissioner John Stanford said at a news conference, calling the group “a bunch of criminal opportunists.”

People appeared to have organized efforts on social media, Mr. Stanford said. Police are investigating “that there was possibly a caravan of a number of different vehicles that were going from location to location” and said that a couple of people in the caravan were in custody.

No injuries were immediately reported, but CBS Philadelphia reported that a security guard was assaulted at Foot Locker.

In North Philadelphia, a pharmacy owner said his store was broken into for a third time and that items were taken.

“I understand, you know, desperate times for people call for desperate measures and there are plenty of opportunists that just see drugs,” Benjamin Nachum told CBS. He said, though, that a safe in his store did its job, “so there won’t be any illicit narcotics hitting the street.”

The thefts occurred on the same day that Target announced it would close nine stores in four states, including one in New York City’s East Harlem neighborhood and three in the San Francisco Bay Area, saying that theft and organized retail crime have threatened the safety of its workers and customers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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