The mayhem escalated. Protesters set fires to garbage bins and repeatedly shut off the street lights. Looters threw themselves at the window of Grace Beauty Supply and hauled off $15,000 in wigs, hair extensions and other merchandise."We saw our store get looted on TV," said the owner, who declined to be named out of concern for her safety. "I just couldn't believe it. My mother is old - I thought she was going to die."
The police, she believed, would protect her business.Looters emptied the Green Circle mailbox store of computers, printers, ink cartridges, sodas, candy and anything else that could be carted out through the shattered front window. The damage totaled more than $27,000, store owner Thillo Bramah said."I was at home and saw my business on the news," Bramah said. "It was painful to watch. People were just coming by and grabbing things. Why did the police let this happen? I don't understand."
While more than 100 officers stood by down the block, the family owners and workers of JC Jewelry were on their own.Armed only with hammers, they were inside the store when a mob of vandals and looters used sheer force to pull down a metal cage that was protecting the store. The looters scooped up gold chains, diamond rings, gold teeth "grillz" and other items worth more than $50,000."The police were here, there, everywhere, but they did nothing," said Tony Moeuth, 32, the owner of the business. "It was like they were scared themselves." Moeuth and two co-workers called 911 but could not get through. They did their best to fend off the looters on their own, but Moeuth was armed only with his fists and a small jeweler's hammer.
"We just got overwhelmed," he said a week later, nursing a black eye suffered in the melee as his family swept up the smashed display cases and scrubbed blood-splattered walls and carpet. Moeuth still wonders what happened to the police that night.
One issue was communications among the various police forces through the central command post. Officers had to have Oakland police radios to communicate directly with the post because outside radio systems were not compatible. Some had radios that could patch into Oakland transmissions using special equipment, but the system was spotty."The communications didn't work well," said Renée Domingo, Oakland's Director of Emergency Services and Homeland Security. "We're trying to figure out what exactly didn't work."