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Easyrider employee recounts chaotic night

With shards of glass littering the sidewalk, a large plank of wood covered Easyrider's shattered window Monday morning.

The front window of the bike store at 328 Main St. in Huntington Beach was among the property, including city vehicles, newspaper racks, portable toilets and street signs, damaged when fighting broke out after the U.S. Open of Surfing ended Sunday night, according to police. Authorities are still assessing the amount of property loss.

Police arrested eight people and booked them into Huntington Beach city jail on suspicion of failing to leave the downtown area, Huntington Beach Police Lt. Mitch O'Brien said in a statement Sunday.

Police responded to reports of a large crowd at Pacific Coast Highway and Main Street, about three blocks south of the bike store, at 7:16 p.m. after the end of the eight-day surfing contest, O'Brien said Sunday. The uncooperative crowd moved into the downtown area after police tried to stop a fight. Police had the area under control by 9 p.m., he said in a statement.

In addition to the window, Easyrider lost a $500 bike, according to owner Jason Hilbert, 39. When someone tried to take another bike, employee Bert Etheredge stepped in, pulling it away from the man.

The bicycle that Etheredge, 39, of Lake Forest, saved from looters was a custom one-off piece that is estimated to cost about $5,000, he said.

The custom paint on the frame now sports large scratches, while the sissy bar, which used to stand straight up, is bent back.

"I started wrestling with that bike against two of the looters on two separate occasions," Etheredge said. "I wrestled it back into the shop and started pushing other stuff into the shop."

During the tussle, Etheredge said a group of locals made their way to the front of the store trying to push looters away from the building.

"They were lining up in front of the shop trying to back people off," he said. "We've been in business a long time, so a lot of people know who we are. ... It was good to see the locals come up and have a good sense of community and help us out."

This wasn't the first time the bike shop has been broken into, but it is the first time it's happened during a riot, Hilbert said.

The last time, they posted "You don't have to smash the window to get a steal of a deal" on the window.

Hilbert said about 15 employees and residents locked up the shop, shut off the lights and hunkered down in the back of the store.

"The actions that they took to get out of harm's way really kept it from getting really bad," Hilbert said. "I'm just glad no one got hurt."

He said he found $100 in cash in an envelope from a Danny and Kyle from Belmont Shore in Long Beach on Monday.

Duane Weiss, 60, who has lived in Huntington Beach for more than 30 years, said he wasn't surprised by Sunday's melee because over the years the city has changed in a negative way.

"It's an out-of-control, negative situation down there now," he said Monday. "It's not a place where lots of us want to go anymore."

Resident Dominic Coffey, 14, hid in a nearby Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf when multiple fights broke out along Main Street.

"I luckily left before all the crazy stuff started happening," he said Monday. "This has been the only U.S. Open that I've seen this happen. Usually at the U.S. Open, people throw their trash everywhere, but I've never seen it get this wild."

Downtown Huntington Beach resident Bernardo Vizcarro, 48, said Vans needs to learn from its mistakes. He said there's a "night and day" difference between last year and this year's competition.

"It put a black eye [on Vans] for their very first year," he said. "Vans stated it was going to be a community-based type of event. It was absolutely not a family environment."

Lt. John Domingo said Monday that a few officers suffered minor injuries and there were reports of a few civilians injuries as well.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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