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Homeless iPhone fight in Pasadena: 'It was crazy,' witness says

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Witnesses at the Apple store in Pasadena said several fights broke out among people in line, and at one point one homeless man threw a cellphone at another. 

"An argument would break out, then another argument -- it was crazy," said Tamara Grashian, 45, who was waiting in line for an iPhone 5s with her daughter. "I was a little nervous because we were a little close." 

Security was beefed up after the arrests, with police officers and private security guards spread out across the sidewalk. 

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Pasadena Police Lt. Jason Clawson confirmed that a fight broke out about 9 a.m. as a man left the store with multiple iPhones. Several homeless people said the man picked up dozens of people at homeless shelters downtown, drove them to Pasadena and promised to pay them $40 -- $20 for each iPhone voucher they were able to secure.

Clawson said the fight broke out when people who were in line and hired by the man began fighting with him because they said they weren’t being paid enough, Clawson said. Police escorted the man from the scene, he said. 

“It didn’t go right. I stood out here all night,” said Dominoe Moody, 43, who said he was picked up along with several vanloads of people at a homeless mission.

Many of the homeless who had been hired to stand in line -- but later stranded at the store -- lingered near the store after the arrests, some hanging out on the corner across the street and a few continuing to stand in line. One homeless man was escorted out by an Apple employee after wandering into the store with no money, prompting a police officer to intervene and give him directions back to the Gold Line train station a few blocks away.

With new iPhones hard to come by on launch day, many Apple fans have gotten creative so they can secure a coveted phone. 

Customers waiting outside the Apple store on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica on Thursday night were grumbling about a well-dressed man who had hired two unemployed men to wait in line for him. 

The man, who said his name was Sam but declined to give his last name, said he worked at a "high-profile Santa Monica app company" and needed a new phone immediately because he had lost his phone recently. 

He didn't want to wait overnight, however, and briefly considered hiring a line sitter on TaskRabbit -- a website that enables people to hire others for small errands -- "but it was too expensive."

Instead, he approached a couple of unemployed people hanging outside Barnes & Noble and offered them food and cash to wait eight hours in line. 

"Just got them dinner," Sam said, gesturing to a bag of McDonald's on the floor, "and I'll be back at 5 a.m. tomorrow." 

The move made him feel "a little guilty," but he said he would pay the men "a reasonable amount of money." 

But after Sam left, one of the men he hired said no price had been set. 

"We haven't talked about how much he's going to pay me. I'm hoping good money though," said the line sitter, who was hoping for $40 in addition to his burger. "Hopefully the guy will be generous." 

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andrea.chang@latimes.com

samantha.schaefer@latimes.com

joseph.serna@latimes.com

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