Fullerton firefighter was arrested in Huntington Beach riot

Police officers make a stand at Main Street to thwart looting and rioting in Huntington Beach on Sunday night.
(Allen J. Schaben, Los Angeles Times)

One of the suspects arrested in connection with looting and rioting in Huntington Beach has been identified as a Fullerton firefighter.

Anaheim resident Michael John Lytle, 30, was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest in connection with the disturbance that broke out at sundown Sunday after the eight-day U.S. Open of Surfing ended.


The firefighter, who was hired in February 2008, has been placed on paid leave while Fullerton city officials investigate, said Gretchen Beatty, director of human resources in Fullerton.

Police arrested seven people in connection with the disturbance and said additional arrests were likely as they study the numerous photos and videos that were shot of people tipping over portable toilets, smashing a shop window, hurling traffic cones and wooden planks ripped from barricades, and taunting police.

Huntington Beach police fired pepper balls and nonlethal projectiles to quell the crowd. Several officers sustained minor injuries, and one person was treated and released from a hospital after being hit by a rubber projectile. More than 100 officers were deployed.

At a town hall forum Tuesday evening, Huntington Beach Police Chief Ken Small said officers used “an incredible amount of restraint” in dealing with the crowd that swept up Main Street from the beach.

“I can’t tell you how many bottles of hot sauce were thrown at us,” Small said.

Some residents said they wanted to see the annual surfing contest, which drew an estimated crowd of 100,000 spectators Sunday, to be better controlled or even ended.

Susie Smith, owner of Making Waves salon on Main Street, said the surf contest didn’t necessarily help the city’s downtown businesses.

“We’re not making the money you think we are,” she said.

Resident Jeff Freud said he grew up in neighboring Newport Beach and as a youth wasn’t permitted to go to Huntington Beach because of its wild surf culture. He said he was now considering moving his family back to Newport or to Seal Beach.

“We hosted a young South African surfer in the contest and as soon as he was eliminated, he wouldn’t go back down there,” Freud said. “This is a guy that travels the world surfing and he didn’t want to go watch surfing.”

James Leitz, executive director of the competition, said Monday that an otherwise successful event was spoiled by a “few people” and that he hoped the competition would remain in Huntington Beach, which has long been the site of top-ranked surfing events.

City officials vowed to assemble a task force of residents and business owners to search for ways to make the even safer in the future.

Times staff writer Kate Mather contributed to this report.