A group of “a hundred or so” young looters created havoc in the US city of Philadelphia, stealing from several stores in a spree on Tuesday night, local time.
Police said the havoc was unrelated to earlier peaceful protests in Philadelphia over a judge’s decision to drop charges against a police officer who fatally shot 27-year-old local man Eddie Irizarry while he was sitting in his car.
During the night of chaos on Tuesday, the unruly crowd outnumbered responding officers as they went from store to store in Philadelphia’s Center City, lifting merchandise and stuffing goods in large plastic bags, CBS Philadelphia and the New York Post reported.
The shoplifters hit a Foot Locker, Apple and Lululemon store, and are accused of assaulting a security guard at the Foot Locker, according to the local station.
At least 15 people were arrested in connection with the frenzied mass-shoplifting event, according to ABC7.
The looting has no connection to the demonstrations held earlier in the day over the dismissal of charges in the Irizarry case, police said.
“What we had tonight was a bunch of criminal opportunists take advantage of a situation and make an attempt to destroy our city,” Police Commissioner John Stanford said at a press briefing.
Police made “somewhere around 15 to 20 arrests,” he said, promising that they would make more.
Municipal Judge Wendy Pew dismissed all charges — which included murder, manslaughter, official oppression and more — against Philadelphia police officer Mark Dial, who shot Mr Irizarry through his rolled-up car window during a traffic stop on August 14.
The judge said she “100 per cent” agreed with Dial’s defence lawyers, who argued that the cop acted in self-defence when he fired his gun six times at Mr Irizarry, believing he had a gun.
Mr Irizarry, who was pulled over for erratic driving after a short pursuit, had a knife near his legs which Dial’s partner testified he may have mistaken for a gun due to its dark handle.
The victim’s family members were taken aback by the judge’s decision, which prosecutors plan to appeal.
“We are going to continue to fight for justice because that was wrong,” Mr Irizarry’s cousin Aracelis Brown, 28, said in an interview after the hearing.
The looting episode, which the police commissioner said was carried out by a crowd of up to “a hundred or so” individuals, comes as organised shoplifting and petty theft are on a rise in the United States.
In cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago, a recent trend in brazen raids by violent flash mobs has resulted in the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars of luxury goods.
A version of this article originally appeared on the New York Post and was reproduced with permission