Tapes, Films Lead to More Suspects in Aug. 31 Riot

Times Staff Writer

Police arrested four more people Tuesday in connection with the Labor Day weekend riot in which 40 were injured, and authorities were searching for five others who have been identified as participants in the melee, a Huntington Beach police spokesman said.

Sgt. James Dahl of the Huntington Beach police said warrants were issued for the arrests of the nine adults and added that police also were searching for three juveniles implicated in the Aug. 31 riot.

A committee headed by Huntington Beach Mayor Robert P. Mandic Jr. on Tuesday afternoon viewed a videotape of the violence that erupted at the conclusion of the Op Pro Surfing Championships. The committee later discussed modifications in the staging of the five-day surfing event next year.

Arrested Tuesday were John Costa and Nicholas Beck, both 25, of Fullerton. They were charged with one count each of felony vandalism and a misdemeanor count of rioting. William Murrell, 19, of Fountain Valley was picked up on misdemeanor charges of vandalism and rioting, Dahl said.


The fourth person, arrested late Tuesday, was Thomas Rhodes, 19, of Tustin, who was charged with possession of stolen property.

That brought the total number of people arrested in connection with the incident to 26, including 13 detained the day of the riot.

Dahl said the suspected rioters were identified through videotapes, still photographs and information from witnesses. He said police investigators probably will attempt to arrest another 10 people suspected of being involved in the riot, in which 30 beachgoers and 10 police officers were injured.

JoAnne Bonkowski, a Police Department spokeswoman, said Tuesday’s arrests were due largely to community cooperation, especially from people who had cameras and videotape equipment at the surfing contest.


It Was Well-Documented

“It was a surf contest, so everybody had their cameras and video things out,” she said.

Although the committee studying the ramifications of the riot voiced support for staging the surfing championships again, it decided Tuesday to hold more meetings before formulating concrete recommendations.

Before their discussions Tuesday, the nine members of the committee viewed an 18-minute videotape the Police Department had spliced together from their own video footage, still photographs and videotape from private citizens and television stations.


The tape showed how a confrontation between police and a group of men trying to yank the bikini tops off of several women slowly turned into a full-scale melee. The committee saw scenes of police cars being smashed, overturned and then set afire, in addition to bottle and rock throwing as police tried to quell the disturbance.

Ian Cairns, the executive director of the Assn. of Surfing Professionals, told the other committee members that the Huntington Beach championships are considered the best in the world and should not be canceled.

“I think it must be held again simply to prove one thing: that it can be run and it can be run without (a riot),” Cairns said.

Amenable to Change


Jerry Crosby, a representative of sponsor Ocean Pacific and also a member of the committee, said the company is still willing to stage the event. He also indicated that the company would be amenable to moving the event away from the Labor Day weekend, traditionally one of the biggest beach weekends of the year.

“But if it’s moved, I would like to have it before Labor Day,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to have it after Labor Day when school has already started.”

Another consideration the committee must discuss, Mandic said, is how to properly provide security at any subsequent event along the mile-long stretch of city beach where the surfing contest has been held the past five years. The contest usually draws between 70,000 and 100,000 spectators.

Although he agreed that the contest should be moved from the Labor Day weekend, Roger Bloom, a former newspaper editor and the citizen representative on the committee, voiced the strongest sentiment for retaining the surfing championships in Huntington Beach.


“I don’t think a bunch of drunken idiots should dictate city policy,” he said.

Police find they must recall lessons learned during the riot-torn ‘60s. Story in View, Page 1.