A belligerent crowd of about 200 camouflage-wearing, cherry bomb-throwing teen-agers turned a La Jolla neighborhood into a "war zone" Halloween night, leaving shaken residents organizing for action Friday.
For about one hour, salvos of cherry bombs, smoke bombs, eggs and water balloons were exchanged between passing teen-age motorists and youths occupying the four front yards at La Canada and Beaumont in the Upper Hermosa area, according to angry residents.
Frightened and crying trick-or-treaters were sprayed with shaving cream, and adults were verbally threatened until a band of neighborhood men blocked the street to cruising cars and dispersed the gathering, one witness said, adding that at least one youth had a baseball bat and another pulled a knife.
"It was basically a war zone," said Lisa Salcido, 23, who has lived in the neighborhood all her life and was outside walking with her fiance. "A lot of them were dressed in black or wearing (military) fatigues."
Neighborhood resident Mary Ann Brown said, "On our corner, there were at least 200 kids. We thought we were in the middle of a riot about to happen."
Four residents estimated the crowd at 200 young people, who vanished by the time San Diego police arrived.
In recent years, homeowners have nervously witnessed an increase in Halloween-night teen-age activity, but the degree of hostility by some easily recognized local youths was especially alarming.
"This year, we were aware of the potential for this getting worse, but nobody anticipated it would be this bad," said Candace King, a neighborhood mother. Normally, "These are good kids. Some of them are honor students.
"I tried to stop a 12-year-old, and was thrown into my hedge, cutting my leg and bruising my hip," she continued, adding that she had people jumping her back-yard fence, including a boy she knows.
Though some teen-agers delighted at squirting children with shaving cream, the main event was broadsides between youths who raced their vehicles down the dark streets and those waiting at the La Canada-Beaumont intersection, according to residents.
"The cars would come by. Kids would scatter. Cars would throw eggs and water balloons, and the kids would throw things back at them," Salcido said, adding that then the teen-agers, who also tossed firecrackers, cherry bombs and smoke bombs, armed themselves with eggs and awaited innocent targets of opportunity.
"They were throwing eggs at Cadillacs and nice BMWs," she said.
Some adult males were cursed and threatened as they tried to slow teen-age drivers who raced down the street despite the presence of costumed children. Finally, one man parked his own vehicle in the street with his lights on, effectively blocking intruding cars.
The men tried to disperse the crowd, but were rebuffed.
"Kids were taking swings at them," Salcido said.
Brown said her husband intervened when he saw a youth pull a knife on another teen.
Eventually, the crowd drifted away.
San Diego police spokesman Bill Robinson described the Halloween incident as "an isolated case," but that was no comfort to residents, who vow it won't happen again.
Residents are planning to meet with local school principals, hoping the parents of the carousing teens will be told about their behavior.
"There has been a network of mothers who are organizing to do these things," Brown said.
Some residents feel police arrived late despite their repeated calls to 911, and Brown said the City Council will be asked to ensure that officers are posted in the neighborhood next Halloween.
"If they won't do that, I'd like to hire some security," said another resident, Barbara Murfey.