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Shell Looter Arrested via Photos from Flickr

By Eric Richardson
Published: Wednesday, September 30, 2009, at 10:28AM
DSC_0186 tballw32 [Flickr]

This photo of Michael Rivas helped LAPD arrest the 24-year-old on burglary and looting charges.

NBA camps opened yesterday, and the Lakers are focused on pursuing a second championship. The Los Angeles Police Department, though, is still interested in the one the team won in June.

LAPD and Councilwoman Jan Perry held a press conference outside the Shell station at Olympic and Grand this morning to announce the arrest of Michael Rivas, a 24-year-old from Hawaiian Gardens who participating in looting at the gas station. Rivas was identified via a combination of old-fashioned detective work and new technology: photos and videos from Flickr and Youtube.

In the wake of the Lakers' 15th NBA Championship win on June 14, a small crowd of "knuckle-heads" -- to use Police Chief William Bratton's favorite term -- left a trail of vandalism across the neighborhood around Staples Center.

LAPD has identified 29 crimes committed that night, and in the months since has been pursuing information that would bring those responsible to justice.

Rivas was part of a group that looted the Shell station, helping themselves to free food and drink. He was recorded taking two trips into the store, carrying out cases of Rockstar energy drink.

"I'll tell you right now that Mr. Rivas is a rockstar," said LAPD Central Division Captain Blake Chow, "and he's going to be sitting in jail for a while and going through the court system while he thinks about how good that case of Rockstar tasted."

Rivas was arrested on Friday, September 25, while working as a security guard at a Whittier hospital. He was charged with burglary with a special enhancement for looting. Bail was set at $20,000.

LAPD officials emphasized that no one can stay anonymous in the age of social media. "It's nearly impossible to stay anonymous in this age of cell phones, video and social websites," said Lt. Paul Vernon, "and that's a good thing, if it holds more people accountable for their behavior."

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