Video shows squad car damaged in sideshow; city vows crackdown

Video on social media shows bystanders kicking the vehicle with an officer inside

By Judith Prieve
Bay Area News Group

ANTIOCH, Calif. — After two large sideshows wreaked havoc this past weekend, Antioch police and Mayor Lamar Thorpe issued a stern warning to participants, promising they will use all resources to identify them and ensure they are prosecuted.

“These incidents bring great danger to responding officers, participants and bystanders, in the environment as a whole, and let me be clear, violent disruptive behavior will not be tolerated,” interim Antioch Police Chief Steven Ford said at a press conference Monday at 18th and A streets, where one of two sideshows took place Saturday night.

“As we enter the summer months, we want to remind organizers and participants of sideshows that if you come to Antioch your vehicle will be impounded for 30 days, costing you or your parents $3,000 — and that’s only to get the vehicle out,” Thorpe warned. “You will also be issued a citation of $300.”

A video widely circulated on social media showed a police vehicle being damaged by bystanders who surrounded and began kicking and hitting it as the officer attempted to pursue a participant at that downtown intersection, police said.

Another sideshow occurred shortly beforehand around 10 p.m. at Lone Tree Way and Bluerock Drive, the same southeast Antioch location of a large gathering less than a year ago. Bystanders threw bottles and other objects at police cars, police said.

The California Highway Patrol pursued two suspects who fled one of the sideshows, taking them into custody in Elk Grove and later booking them in Martinez on suspicion of reckless driving, evading police and assault with a deadly weapon upon a peace officer.

Ford warned that anyone who participates in a sideshows will have their vehicles towed and they will be dealt with with “the fullest extent of the law.”

[RELATED: San Jose is first major city to criminalize promoting sideshows online]    

“It will be a zero-tolerance approach to sideshows in the city of Antioch and all resources at my disposal will be used to mitigate these activities,” Ford said.

“If you think you’ve gotten away with sideshows in the past, please understand, we will do our research,” he said. “We will come to your home and we will confiscate your vehicles after the sideshow activity.”

Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe also said the sideshows “put innocent lives in danger” and “will not be tolerated.”

“Last year I declared that Antioch was a ‘no-sideshow zone’ and said that we were not messing around with anybody as it relates to sideshows,” he said. “And I’m here to tell you again that we’re still not messing around with anyone. These types of activities are not welcome in our city.”

Since the mayor’s first warning last May, he said only two attempts have been made to gather for large-scale sideshows but both were “quickly disrupted and cleared.” Thorpe credited the traffic unit leadership under Lt. Joseph Levy and its proactive sideshow enforcement team and their intelligence gathering for helping to prevent more sideshow troubles.

Unfortunately, this time out, the police department’s proactive intelligence gathering efforts were hampered, Thorpe said, because of staffing shortages due to the ongoing investigation by the district attorney and Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Prosecutors in late March said an undetermined number of officers were placed on leave for “a broad range of offenses under investigation involve crimes of moral turpitude.”

“With that, I want to assure the public today that that has been rectified, and has been put to test,” he said, noting another sideshow set for 1:30 a.m. Monday  was prevented.

Antioch Police Traffic Unit Sgt. Rob Green said the sideshows typically draw between 50 and 75 cars and up to 200 people while only six officers are on patrol duty. That’s why they are working proactively to monitor social media outlets beforehand and have partnered with other nearby agencies for assistance when the sideshows do form.

“I also want to thank the citizens that constantly call in to provide us with videos,  provide us information to help us solve this crime,” he said. “…Just know the men and women of this police department love this city. We love our department and will continue to investigate this case.”

And, while other nearby communities have made it illegal to watch sideshows, the Antioch mayor urged caution, saying some bystanders might be concerned residents observing the activity.

“While we have focused on organized organizers and participants with cars, we have not necessarily targeted spectators,” he added. “We’ve done this because we don’t want to assume all bystanders are spectators and we don’t want to unfairly target youth and young adults.”

That said, Thorpe noted they have learned that many of the spectators are not from the area and those who damage public property, endanger police officers “are not acceptable by any stretch of the imagination.”

He said the council will consider a measure to discourage spectators that would authorize police to arrest spectators who would then face up to six months in hail and $1,000 fines, similar to the rules Pittsburg recently adopted.

“Don’t come to Antioch because we will be waiting for you with the full force of the Antioch Police Department or its allied agencies to ensure that that (sideshow) does not happen in our community.”

Anyone with information may call a police non-emergency line at 925-778-2441 or texting-a-tip to 274637 (CRIMES) using the key word ANTIOCH.

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