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AFTERMATH OF THE RIOTS : Compton Riot Began With Looting Call

Here is a chronology of the rioting in Compton after not - guilty verdicts in the trial of officers accused in the beating of Rodney G. King.

WEDNESDAY

* About 7 p.m.: As night fell, Compton Police received the first riot-related call: looters at Bill’s Food Market, 133rd Street and Wilmington Avenue. Ten officers responded in five cars and dispersed the crowd. There were no arrests. At 7:42, after police had left, vandals returned and torched the building. Bill’s Market, destroyed by fire, became the first casualty of rioting in Compton.

* 8:15 p.m.: A Compton policeman, responding to reports of looting in the 1300 block of East Peck Street, shot at a fleeing suspect who appeared to pull a gun. The suspect escaped. (On Sunday afternoon, police arrested a man driving a stolen vehicle and discovered a bullet wound in his thigh. The officer who fired the shot Wednesday night identified the driver as the looting suspect.)

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* 8:30 p.m.: Fires erupted in at least half a dozen businesses scattered throughout the city, and callers jammed 911 emergency lines with reports of fires, looting, fights, shots fired and noise. On Compton Boulevard, looters struck Blake’s Jewelry and Loan pawnshop and neighboring Gus’s liquor store. Police arrested 20 people. Merchandise was scattered throughout the stores and outside. “They were all laughing. I couldn’t believe it,” Lt. Steve Roller said.

* 11:15 p.m.: Police crisscrossed the city in futile attempts to respond to looting and vandalism at store after store. Orange glows from scattered fires lit the night sky. During a hastily called City Council meeting, officials declared a local state of emergency in response to widespread looting and arson. Council members imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew but with little immediate result.

THURSDAY

* Just after midnight: The emergency switchboard was completely lighted up by incoming calls and would remain that way for hours.

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* 2:30 a.m.: Sam Chung, one of many Korean business owners in Compton, was awakened by the phone in his Cerritos home. Looters had broken into his Compton Boulevard market. Residents near the building kept it from burning, but several adjacent markets also owned by Koreans were not so fortunate.

* 9 a.m.: City officials assessed the damage from the night of terror: 43 buildings destroyed or damaged by fire, 87 buildings looted or vandalized, $12 million in estimated property damage. Police announced they had made 141 arrests. No deaths related to the riot were reported.

* 11 a.m.: Mayor Walter Tucker III canceled the city’s Cinco de Mayo celebration. The mayor, other council members and other city leaders appeared on the local public-access cable TV channel to pray for peace.

* Late morning: Vandalism continued to spread. Entire strip malls were looted and burned. Merchandise was strewn ankle-deep in some parking lots. Ministers and civic leaders issued appeals for calm.

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* 12:30 p.m.: An unidentified man was shot by police officers near the corner of Rosecrans and Chester avenues. Police are investigating the shooting.

* 2:30 p.m.: Thanh Lam, 25, was shot to death while driving down Alondra Boulevard with a pickup truck filled with cases of beer. Witnesses said the assailants were blacks who screamed racial epithets at the driver before shooting him.

* 3 p.m.: Looters broke into the Pep Boys store at 1900 Long Beach Blvd., ignoring police officers guarding the J. J. Newberry department store a few feet away. Police attempted to arrest some looters, but the stealing continued. “At that point I knew we had completely lost control of the city,” police Lt. Roller said. “As I drove back to the station--with lights and sirens going--the street was filled with pedestrians who refused to get out of the way. They were pointing and laughing at me.”

* 6 p.m.: National Guard troops were scheduled to arrive but did not appear until Friday morning.

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* Throughout the night: Looters and arsonists continued their rampage. Incidents were so voluminous that police and fire officials, working 12-hour shifts, were overwhelmed and had difficulty recalling specific incidents and when they occurred.

FRIDAY

* Early morning: Reinforcements arrived: 275 National Guard troops, 150 deputies from San Diego County and 45 law enforcement officers from various cities gathered at a staging area at the city-owned Ramada Inn.

* 10 a.m.: Eighty officers in more than 40 patrol cars rolled out of the staging area with sirens screaming to respond to a report of looting at the Family Ranch Market on South Long Beach Boulevard. As they headed down Artesia Boulevard, citizens on the sidewalks applauded the show of force.

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* Late morning: The troops and deputies scattered on patrols throughout the city. Riot-related incidents dropped significantly, Roller said.


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