Thousands turned out to celebrate Halloween on Monday night in Hollywood, but what began as an informal, carnival-like event on Hollywood Boulevard turned scary for Los Angeles police when some of the revelers began pelting officers with bottles and rocks.
The violence broke out after officers decided to disperse the crowds in the area of Hollywood Boulevard between Highland Avenue and the Hollywood (101) Freeway.
Sixteen people were arrested--seven on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon in the rock- and bottle-throwing incident, and others on a variety of charges. No injuries were reported.
"Until 11:50 p.m., it was a pretty happy crowd, everyone walking around and looking at each others' costumes," said Los Angeles police spokeswoman Lorie Taylor. "Some small fights broke out, so that's when officers began moving people out of the area."
Police were low-key about the incident, but eyewitnesses said the situation was more volatile than authorities let on.
"This was an occasion with a lot of potential for violence," said Joe Shea, president of the Ivar Hill Community Assn. and a member of the Hollywood Community Police Advisory Board. "Whenever a whole bunch of gang members are throwing rocks and bottles at police, you have a powder-keg situation that can start off a riot."
The fact that rock throwing was the most serious incident was beside the point, Shea said.
"You can't congratulate police for being lucky, you can only be thankful that they were," he said, adding that he plans to petition police to prohibit the Halloween gathering in Hollywood next year.
Police estimate that 1 million revelers turned out in Hollywood, but Shea and other onlookers said the number was closer to 100,000.
In the West Hollywood area, meanwhile, 75,000 people paraded along Santa Monica Boulevard, many until after midnight, Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies said.
Two people were arrested in West Hollywood on suspicion of being drunk in public, and a woman was taken for medical treatment, apparently the victim of a drug overdose.
In Santa Monica, police reported that a would-be attacker got a Halloween surprise when the "woman" he threatened to rape turned out to be a man dressed in female clothing.
The victim was approached from behind in the 1700 block of Ocean Ave., Santa Monica police Sgt. Gary Gallinot said. The male suspect threatened to rape the costumed victim, who spun around, prompting the surprised suspect to exclaim, "You're a guy!," Gallinot said.
The suspect fled, but was later arrested.
Meanwhile, sheriff's deputies in Malibu and Los Angeles police in the West Los Angeles, Wilshire and Pacific divisions reported no Halloween-related problems.
A police officer-involved shooting of a robbery suspect in Culver City earlier in the day was not connected to Halloween, said police spokesman Lt. Tom Gabor.
In Beverly Hills, hundreds of youths joined in what has become an annual egg-throwing and shaving cream-spraying melee in front of the multimillion-dollar mansions north of Santa Monica Boulevard. Besides some spray and eggs hitting property and some unlucky passersby, there was no damage reported.
One juvenile was arrested for assaulting a police officer, however, when he smashed an egg on the officer's chest.