IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Bear spray used in California smash-and-grab theft

The incident at a Nordstrom in Los Angeles was part of a wave of group shoplifting in California.
Get more newsLiveon

Los Angeles police said Monday that among the implements used in the holiday season's spree of smash-and-grab crimes is bear spray, a chemical irritant similar to pepper spray but more potent.

The police department said in a statement that someone who was part of a group of suspects at a Nordstrom in the city's San Fernando Valley on Nov. 24 used bear spray on a security guard.

Police released security video of the guard being sprayed.

The incident was part of a spree of smash-and-grab and flash-mob thefts last month that police said resulted in about $330,000 in losses for about 10 retailers.

For comparison, the police department's defunct, two-person Art Theft Detail recovered nearly $4.4 million every year in stolen items since 1993, according to the police department's figures.

The police department announced 14 spree-related arrests at a news conference last week that featured Chief Michel Moore and Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Moore has criticized California's criminal justice system for allowing the suspects to go free as they await their day in court. The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said "zero bail" for many nonviolent crime allegations is a result of the California Judicial Council's bail schedule.

The office had yet to charge any of the 14.

Moore told NBC Los Angeles on Sunday that he had talked to District Attorney George Gascón and had been assured that "the full weight of prosecutions against each of those individuals" was forthcoming.

Moore said the spree was part of a larger rise in crime. Last month, the president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, William Briggs, advocated for a 12 percent increase in police spending, saying the extra cash was needed to stop the shoplifting incidents.

The police department's own data show that reports of robbery (down by more than 13 percent) and burglary (7 percent) were on the decline by the end of November compared to the same time in 2019.

Total arrests were down by 27 percent, but reports of violent crime were up by 3.9 percent, police figures show.

Moore described at least four of the November incidents as robberies and said the smash-and-grab spree has been "violent and dangerous," but none of the arrests were for robbery, and none alleged violence.

Six of the suspects were arrested in connection with allegations of grand theft, six in connection with allegations of burglary, one in connection with allegations of receiving stolen property and one in connection with allegations of driving without a license, the police department said.

One of the burglary suspects is a juvenile, it said.

No one has been arrested in the bear spray incident, the police department said.

The office of the Los Angeles County public defender did not immediately respond to a request for comment on behalf of the arrestees.