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California

Looters even steal ice cube trays from freezer at Melrose store amid protests

Shattered glass fills a storefront on Melrose Avenue on Sunday after a night of looting in the popular shopping area.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

On Sunday morning, Ricky Flores swept inside his Melrose Avenue clothing store Flashback, where a sign out front read, “Now open! Please wear a mask for entry.”

He and his friend opened the store four years ago, with help from investors they eventually bought out. A year ago, business was going so well they moved from a smaller space next door to a larger one.

The store had just reopened Friday after being closed since March because of the coronavirus outbreak. They had sold masks and other merchandise online, which helped make up some of the financial losses.

But they closed their doors again Saturday because of the George Floyd protests. They watched on the news as buildings across the street burned.

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When Flores arrived around 7 a.m. Sunday, people were still stealing items from the store, he said. The alarm was blaring and people had broken the security gate the night before.

“It’s going to be like the Watts riots,” one witness said. “I wasn’t really alive for it, but I was alive for this one. I’ll tell my kids and family members what happened.”

“I thought this was going to be cool,” Flores said, shaking the broken gate. “This ain’t no security gate. They got through it easily.”

Besides shoes and clothes, people stole three televisions off the wall. They even stole the ice cube trays from the freezer.

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“What kind of a sick person takes the ice cube trays out of the freezer?”

He estimated losses totaling $200,000.

Flores and his partner had been optimistic about reopening after Gov. Gavin Newsom gave the green light for extended retail operations amid the coronavirus outbreak. But with all of his inventory now gone, he said it will be difficult to start over.

“We were like, OK, things are looking up,” he said. “And then it’s like, damn, we just got hit. The timing — we’re barely getting over the virus. It hurts so bad. And then to deal with this?

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“If they say it’s safe to open back up in two days, it’s like: What are we going to sell?”

As he swept up shattered glass, passersby stopped to take video and photos of him and the ransacked store. Many other stores were in a similar position Sunday. On both sides of Fairfax Avenue at Melrose, business owners were sweeping debris or pacing on the sidewalk while talking to repair contractors and landlords on the phone.

Some decided to board up shop and wait for another round of potential unrest.

Flores wondered whether nightfall would bring more of the same. But he questioned what they’d even get if looters return to his store.

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“They already got everything,” he said. “What else could they really rob? I hope the National Guard is going to be walking up and down this street.”


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