Updated at the bottom: As cops tell the Weekly charges will be recommended, details emerge about the number of witnesses (victims?). First posted at 8 p.m. Friday.
Ah, the season of giving is upon us, a time when we celebrate family, our nation and, yes, peace on earth. Wait, was that pepper spray inside a Walmart? Is this a riot?
Black Friday turned into pandemonium up and down California as people pepper sprayed, fought and shot their ways to holiday bliss. Way to be American. (Lest we forget that while the pilgrims broke bread with the Native Americans, we ultimately took their land — for dessert! And that's the ultimate discount).
Anyway, let's start our cheerful tale with L.A.'s own pepper-spray lady
, who's still on the loose:
As folks stormed a Porter Ranch Walmart last night in anticipation of Black Friday deals a woman allegedly assaulted competitors with pepper spray, resulting in minor injuries and much irritation for about 20 people, according to an LAFD statement.
The department told the media about the Walmart incident at 19821 Rinaldi Street about 10:22 p.m. Thursday.
LAPD Officer P. Rimkunas told City News Service the woman was …
… waiting with other shoppers for some items wrapped in plastic to be released for sale at 10 p.m. When the plastic was ripped off, she sprayed.
Way to come prepared.
TV news reports indicated she was actually successful and got through checkout with an Xbox before authorities could question her.
Now cops are looking for the mad sprayer, a woman described as 5 feet 3 inches tall, in her mid to late 20s, with black hair and brown eyes and a sense of self-satisfaction only a violently procured discount can bring.
Outside the Fox Hills Mall H&M in Culver City a fracas that involved fists broke out at another Black Friday extravaganza. ABC Eyewitness News reports that no arrests were made (but they got some killer video, below).
Not to be outdone, the Bay Area weighed in with an actual Black Friday shooting. To be fair, however, the bad guy wasn't after a deal, just a five-finger discount, authorities say.
It happened in the parking lot of a San Leandro Walmart after a group of shoppers was approached by a would-be robber who allegedly opened fire and wounded a man. Cops were nearby, and a 20-year-old suspect was quickly arrested, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
The good news is that if we're so feral about our right to shop, so ready to go elbow-to-elbow over a solid deal, well, maybe this economy really is starting to make a turn for the better.
We'd be thankful for that.
[Update at 8:35 p.m. Sunday]: A woman presented herself to police Friday night as the possible sprayer, but cops did not arrest her. They're still investigating, checking out video and talking to witnesses. But City News Service put it this way: “Charges were pending … “
Her name was not revealed.
[Update at 4:10 p.m. Monday]: Lt. Tim Torsney of the LAPD's Devonshire Division tells the Weekly police will almost certainly present a case to the District Attorney's office for alleged “unlawful use of O.C. [Oleoresin Capsicum, a.k.a. pepper] spray.”
“She's a suspect in the unlawful use of O.C. spray,” he said. “We're going to conduct an unbiased investigation regarding what occured and present it to the D.A. once that's completed.”
The Los Angeles Times reported today that the woman might have been defending herself from a mob of competitive shoppers.
While acknowledging that “it was a very chaotic situation,” the lieutenant made it sound like the unidentified sprayer was going to be hit with formal allegations by the police — allegations that would constitute “a felony.”
He said the alleged violation is a “wobbler” — meaning it could go felony or misdemeanor “depending on the circumstances.” In this case police are leaning toward a felony allegation:
The District Attorney will get the first shot at reviewing it.
If the D.A.'s office passes, the case could end up in the hands of the City Attorney.
[Added]: Our cursory reading of the California penal code indicates that pepper spray offenses would be covered by the state's tear gas law, which states:
Any person who uses tear gas or tear gas weapons except in self-defense is guilty of a public offense and is punishable by imprisonment in a state prison for 16 months, or two or three years or in a county jail not to exceed one year or by a fine not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000) …
[Update at 7:18 p.m.]: City News Service reports that police have interviewed a whopping 14 witnesses and hope to get to 10 others before they wrap up their case.
The sprayer is described as being 32-years-old.