Monday night along the tree-lined walkway entrance to the Hollywood Bowl, as Radiohead was closing the second of their two sold-out nights at the venue, Sean Carlson and Phil Hoelting, promoters of this weekend's annual F Yeah Fest, were handing out flyers to exiting fans. Their friend Michael Reich, creator of the popular music video site Videothing.com, was recording the two for an upcoming documentary. As Reich shot, he noticed a scuffle occurring within his frame; in the background four security guards could be seen restraining a crowd member as they were ejecting him. The guards, employees of CSC Security, the company contracted by the Bowl to provide protection, were being overly rough with him, alleges Carlson. “They're strangling him – brutally. He's gasping for air.” Reich turned his camera directly on the action as the CSC guards continued to restrain the man.
“The guy was screaming,” remembers Reich, “and trying to tell them that he would leave peacefully if they let him go.”
“The guard walked up to [Reich] and said, 'What the fuck do you think you're filming?' and grabbed at the camera,” says one eyewitness who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation. According to the witness, Carlson walked over to intervene, whereupon the security guard pushed Carlson to the ground, sending the flyers scattering across the pavement. Reich filmed this, as well. The eyewitness and his wife, not wanting to get involved, continued toward their car, but notified the L.A. police officers — “at least six or seven of them,” he says — stationed at the Bowl entry that there was trouble up above. He says that they did nothing.
Reich and Carlson began to leave the premises, says Reich, certain he had captured the use of extreme force on tape. Hoelting, who had stayed behind, then overheard a guard say, “That shit's going to be on YouTube. We gotta get that tape.”
Carlson and Reich turned around to see the men running toward them. “Three giant security guards were barreling after me,” recalls Reich, so he and Carlson started to run along Highland. As the guards gave chase, Reich ran into traffic to try and elude the guards, who were grabbing at his backpack.
“He's running through traffic, dodging cars, on people's hoods as two guards are chasing him,” recalls the eyewitness. “He's saying, 'Please help me, please help me' with two or three security guards running through traffic trying to catch him.”
“They were running after him saying, 'That's the guy with the camera,'” recalls another witness, Zachary Dawes. He knew Reich from the music scene, and had chatted with him and the two others up near the Bowl. Dawes watched as Reich made his way through the Highland traffic, get hit by a car, recover and continue to run away from his pursuers. Carlson and Hoelting by this point were following.
As Reich headed south on Highland, he spied one of the many police officers who patrol the Bowl. “I cut across and headed that way, thinking, 'He will prevent these guys from taking my tape.'” The guards caught up to him and allegedly tackled him in front of the officer. Another guard restrained Carlson, who was trying to help Reich secure the tape. Reich spotted bystander Dawes, and threw it to him. “I knew that then at least we'd be able to get the tape later,” reasoned Reich. “I figured, there's no way that the security guards are just going to assault this random dude in front of a cop.”
He was wrong. Remembers Dawes: “It landed within five feet of me. I leaned down to pick it up and I got tackled by two of the dudes. They threw me into that ivy-covered wall and I was trying to get them off me. At one point there were three guards on me. I threw the tape to Sean, and that's when it got really ugly.” Dawes alleges that one of the security guards threw Carlson into an electrical box. “He hurled him into it, then threw him onto the ground — at this point there are two or three officers there. [The security guards] smashed his head into the pavement as they're trying to cuff him, the cops aren't doing anything. I'm yelling, 'Officer, this is your jurisdiction — this isn't Hollywood Bowl property anymore. Don't let them do this.'” Dawes recalls that the officers replied that they “give event staff leeway.”
“They beat the shit out of him in front of a cop,” says Reich, “and the cop was like, 'What do you mean? We didn't see that.'” He adds that despite the officers witnessing Reich get hit by a car, they did not call an ambulance or offer any support.
Carlson, who had bore the brunt of the action, was screaming for help as the guards were trying to subdue him. “The cop told me to stop crying,” he recalls. As well, Carlson's keys and cell phone ended up on the sidewalk, and alleges that witnesses watched as security guard took them. They haven't been returned. He was handcuffed by the security guards and led away.
That's the last time Carlson, Reich or Hoelting have seen the videotape. Carlson was taken back onto Hollywood Bowl property, and to a security tent. Hoelting and Reich starting texting people telling them of the incident that had just unfolded.
I live next door to the Bowl, and received a text at 11:05 p.m. I walked over, and came upon Hoelting and Carlson as they argued with the head of Bowl security at the tent. (I'm still unclear of his name, but will update it when I find out.) Carlson was trying to determine the names of the individuals who were involved. The security head was not budging. “I am not going to give you evidence to help you back up your story,” he explained, then told Carlson to go talk to the police. Carlson told him that the police had not been helpful, and the guard said that wasn't his problem. After arguing for five more minutes to no avail, the security head said he was finished with the conversation, and walked away.
Carlson, Reich and Hoelting returned to the location where the tape had vanished, but it was nowhere to be found. F Yeah Fest flyers littered the sidewalk in front of a street musician who was playing saxophone. He witnessed the altercation, as well.
“It looked like some secret agent stuff happening,” recalls the man, who declined to give his name. “Everybody's saying, “Give me the tape! Where's the tape?'”
Reached by phone this morning, CSC lead counsel Jim Service declined to speak to the alleged incident, saying that the company does not comment on ongoing investigations. He declined as well to speak about general security procedures. Hollywood Bowl spokesperson Lisa Bellamore also declined to comment, saying that she couldn't speak to the incident until a police report had been filed.
Reached by phone this morning, Captain Bea Girmala of the Hollywood division of the Los Angeles Police Department says that she is aware of the alleged incident, and that two LAPD detectives have been assigned to investigate. Michael Reich filed a police report yesterday.
Captain Girmala says that the Hollywood Bowl hires off-duty LAPD officers for crowd and traffic control issues. She says those officers are “supposed to help during the immediacy of an incident, and are directed to contact on-duty officers if it is determined to be necessary.” She adds that CSC security officers assigned to the Bowl are not permitted to carry actions outside of Hollywood Bowl property. “They're basically to stay within the venue itself, and if anything rises to the level of serious incident, they are to contact the police.” She says that the off-duty officers have radios that are in sync with CSC security.
Girmala says that she's waiting for a more thorough report on the incident, and will comment further once she's apprised of the situation.
Updates to follow. (If anyone witnessed the event, the comments section is available to add your perspective.) — Randall Roberts