‘Flash mob’ on Venice boardwalk ends in shooting
A man was in critical condition after a shooting Saturday on the Venice boardwalk that sent hordes of onlookers running pell-mell into the streets, police said Sunday.
“It looked like a human tidal wave,” said Spencer L. Sirlin, 27, a Hollywood booking agent who witnessed the attack.
The victim, in his mid-20s, was struck in the head and side and taken to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, said Los Angeles police Sgt. Felipe Vasquez, of the Pacific Division’s beach detail.
The man’s name and updated condition were not available Sunday evening. No arrests have been made, Vasquez said.
The shooting occurred amid a “flash mob” crowd that was organized at least in part over Twitter, Vasquez said.
Alexandria Thompson, a member of a neighborhood watch group called Venice311, said she notified police midmorning Saturday of the online effort to pull together a “flash mob” at the shoreline basketball courts along Ocean Front Walk.
“Venice beach bball ct going up tomorrow,” read the Twitter alert, which was retweeted with embellishments over and over as the day progressed, Thompson said.
Vasquez said he called in reinforcements as the crowd, including young men in gang attire and tattoos, swelled in the late afternoon. About 6:30 p.m., six to eight shots rang out at 17th Avenue and Ocean Front Walk, Vasquez said. The victim ran half a block to an alley where he collapsed, Vasquez said.
The crowd scattered through the neighborhood, with some hiding in nearby shops. The bus stops were mobbed with people trying to flee by public transportation, said Jessie Lieberson, a clerk in a vintage clothing store.
Thompson, 43, said some in the mob ran away backward so they could continue to watch the action.
“They were laughing. It was all part of the event for them,” she said. “There’s a kind of free-for-all down here. Everybody is trying to get away with as much as they can.”
Vasquez said it was not the first flash mob assembled at the boardwalk through social media. A false report that a major hip-hop star would be shooting a video drew a gaggle of break dancers and onlookers earlier this year. The other incidents did not end in violence, he said.
But some business owners said disturbances have been escalating. And they feared the trend would scare off the visitors who have made Venice one of Southern California’s most popular destinations.
Lieberson doubted the latest incident would tarnish Venice’s louche charm.
“The tourists are coming from overseas; they like the legacy of dropouts and hippies,” said the 23-year-old London native. “Our business has been really good lately.”
Simone Shellmire, 23, a model who lives in North Hollywood, said the attack made her uncomfortable, but would not keep her from a scene she’s enjoyed since she was a young girl.
“This is my sweet spot,” Shellmire said. “The cool music on the beach, the drum circle. … It’s diversity. I love coming here.”