Chaos in Little Tokyo as customers run for cover from suspects in a high-speed chase

Visitors explore Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles
Little Tokyo, normally quiet, as pictured here, erupted in chaos Saturday evening as suspects in a high-speed chase abandoned their car and ran through a crowded plaza.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Suspects involved in a high-speed law enforcement pursuit set off a panicked scene in Little Tokyo on Saturday evening after they jumped from their vehicle and sprinted though a popular shopping plaza, triggering a stampede of customers running for cover.

The pursuit began about 5:30 p.m. after Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies attempted to pull over a vehicle that had been reported as being involved in a felony in Gardena, said Deputy Michael Chen. The driver rammed a patrol car and took off, Chen said. He could not confirm where the chase began, but it ended in Little Tokyo, where at least two suspects abandoned the vehicle and ran into Japanese Village Plaza.

Video from Fox 11 Los Angeles showed a car hurtling at high speed northbound on the 110 Freeway from South Los Angeles, then after reaching Little Tokyo colliding with another car heading east on 1st Street. At least two people could be seen exiting the car and escaping into the plaza, a Japanese cultural showcase of restaurants, shops and markets festooned with bright paper lanterns. The video showed scores of people running from the plaza in a chaotic dash for cover.


Deputies set up a containment area to search for the suspects. As of late Saturday, two suspects were still at large and one person had been detained, Chen said.

He had no further information about the suspects’ identities, whether they were armed or whether anyone was injured in the incident.

Chris Sandoval, a barista at Cafe Dulce in the plaza, said people rushed into his bakery and took shelter for about 15 minutes before law enforcement officers knocked on the window and gave an all-clear sign. At about 6:50 p.m., he said, officers returned and told them to shut down for the day.

Sandoval said that he didn’t know what had triggered the law enforcement response but that he saw deputies stopping cars on 2nd Street to check inside. Helicopters circled overhead, with loudspeakers blasting instructions for the suspects to cooperate as “we have you surrounded,” he said. Police in SWAT gear also arrived.

The barista said he wasn’t panicked by the commotion. “This is L.A. — stuff like this happens,” he said. “I wasn’t really trippin’.”