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It Wasn’t a Big Day at the Beach After the Rioting

Times Staff Writer

The crowd was small, the mood was tense and the sand surrounding the lifeguard headquarters at the Huntington Beach Pier was blackened with oil and soot Monday--jarring reminders of the previous day’s riot, one of the worst ever in Orange County.

The damage estimate stood at $150,000, Marine Safety Capt. Bill Richardson said. Most of the destruction was to vehicles and equipment from the Huntington Beach Marine Safety and Police departments.

“I’ve worked here 25 years--I’ve seen three riots here, and this is by far the worst,” said the 42-year-old Richardson, as he stood beneath the bullet hole in the ceiling of the headquarters garage, where he fired a warning shot Sunday afternoon to disperse rioters.

In all, police arrested 10 people Sunday, each on one charge of felony assault on a police officer, authorities said. Two of those arrested were minors.

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At the main lifeguard station near the pier, charred silhouettes were the only sign that police cars had burned there less than 24 hours earlier.

‘Pretty Much Normal’

“The beach looks pretty much normal,” said Mike H. Sherman, 23, of Huntington Beach, as he strolled down the sand lugging a beach bag and chair. “It doesn’t look like there was a major altercation. It looks like just another day at Huntington Beach.”

There were about 70,000 people on the beach--many of them there as spectators at a professional surfing competition--when the rioting broke out about 2 p.m. Sunday. Hundreds of youths pelted police officers with rocks and bottles, storming the lifeguard station and overturning and burning five police vehicles.

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But on Labor Day, the crowd, normally the season’s biggest, never grew beyond about 28,000. While other recent Labor Day holidays have drawn up to 40,000 beachgoers, lifeguard officials called Monday’s group “a regular weekend crowd.”

Richardson said that lifeguards spent until 10 p.m. Sunday clearing the beach and lifeguard station of shattered glass and burned vehicles. The battered station was guarded through the night in case rioters returned.

By Monday morning, the shattered plate glass windows of the Vincent G. Moorehouse Lifeguard Headquarters had been covered with sheets of plywood. Gaps in an aluminum fence railing--which had been torn apart and thrown through the headquarters windows--were filled with sawhorses. A white government pickup truck, its windshield a web of cracks, was parked in the garage that earlier had been filled with rioting youths.

Destroyed Property Listed

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Richardson said rioters destroyed three police cars valued at $25,000 each, one police van, one three-wheeled police motorcycle, one four-wheel-drive lifeguard Jeep, one lifeguard emergency vehicle used as a beach ambulance, between six and 10 bicycles and, assorted personal and city wetsuits and diving gear.

Police listed those arrested as: Christopher Kent Baker, 18, Santa Ana; Jeffrey Sean Burns, 18, and Darren Lee Newman, 21, both of Long Beach; Wendy Manhard, 22, Fountain Valley; Pearse Verrad Kearns, 20, Camp Pendleton; Thomas Charles Militello, 23, Newbury Park; John Edward Fanning, 22, Huntington Beach, and Sean Clark Boles, 18, Coachella.

Baker, Manhard, Kearns, Fanning and Militello remained in custody late Monday, police said.

The previous day’s riot seemed to be on the mind of nearly everyone on the sand at Huntington Beach Monday.

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“I’m surprised you guys don’t have anyone searching cars today,” one driver said to parking lot attendant Mike DiGiovanni.

Edna Rae Montierth, 48, Phoenix, brought her family to Huntington Beach from Arizona for the Labor Day weekend to show her grandchildren the ocean for the first time.

“We felt safe yesterday,” Montierth said as she sat on her beach towel watching the waves. “There were just a few moments of concern when we saw smoke billowing and heard there was a riot. But for the little kids seeing the beach for the first time, it was disappointing. Still, it’s understandable; anything can happen in California.”

Sunday “was totally without reason,” said Huntington Beach Police Lt. Jack Reinholtz. “I don’t know why other peoples’ sand doesn’t attract trouble. But there’s some attraction to our city and we get it.”

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