“Our biggest disappointment was feeling we failed our individual business owners.”
– LBPD Chief Robert Luna, City Council meeting 6/9/20
At the Long Beach City Council meeting on June 9, 2020, Long Beach Police Department Chief Robert Luna responded to pointed questioning from Councilwomen Jeanine and revealed more details about the timeline of the LBPD during the weekend-long increasingly larger protests leading up to the Long Beach protest events one week before on May 31, 2020. Towards the end of Councilwomen Pearce’s questioning, City Manager Tom Modica and Mayor Robert Garcia also added significant information and details.
In the inaugural edition of its ongoing in-depth series THE REVIEW, the LB Tribune has transcribed comments from the June 9th Long Beach City Council exchange between Chief Luna, Councilwomen Pearce, City Manager Tom Modica, and Mayor Garcia.
In the Council exchange, Pearce pressed Luna for more details on the events of the May 31st LB Protest and for the arrest data from the May 31st protest and looting.
A link to the audio of the actual exchange is also provided so those who wish can follow along.
THE REVIEW has constructed a timeline summary by using the remarks from that meeting of the Mayor, the Chief, and the City Manager to give a picture to business owners and residents of what happened on May 31st in the words of Long Beach leaders.
All of the italicized quotes in the May 31st Timeline summary about the events on the timeline are taken from the June 9th City Council exchange. Hyperlinks connect to background stories to remind readers of the events from that particular date.
The transcripts that include the timeline remarks in context follow the May 31st Timeline below:
May 31st LBPD Timeline summary according to remarks by Mayor Garcia, City Manager Modica and Chief Luna
“Weeks before” the LB Protest
Seeing the events around the nation. the LBPD started civil unrest preparing “weeks before” the LB Protest.
- “Our Police Department weeks before due to COVID started to enhance civil unrest training. Whether it was for training command staff, all the way down to the street level officers, equipment and anything else that we may need.”
The weekend of May 23rd
The weekend before the Long Beach Protest the LBPD was aware and “monitoring the activity” of spreading George Floyd protests and the Open the Economy protests.
- “from all the reports and the things that were happening across the nation, we were monitoring all the activity.”
- “we had information that we were going to have protests in front of 400 W Broadway”
Friday, May 29th
The large protest in Los Angeles included clashes with police, damage to police vehicles, closing the 110 freeway by protestors and widespread looting. LBPD activated the LBPD Operations Center at 2900 Redondo on the LB Water Department Campus (5th District) and the LBPD Incident Management Team.
- “So going into the previous weekend, to be exact, that Friday. If you guys all recall, there was a lot of unrest, not only across the country but here locally in the City of Los Angeles. Which caused us to significantly to upgrade our response plan. We actually activated our Department Operations Center that Friday before the 31st and also activated our Incident Management Team that Friday as well.”
Saturday, May 30th
The third night of L.A protests with widespread looting across Downtown LA and surrounding cities with curfews put into place as hundreds are arrested. Long Beach opened its Emergency Operations Center in case the unrest came to Long Beach. The LBPD sent officers to help in L.A. who then returned to Long Beach with the first-hand experience of what happened on the Saturday night before the Sunday Long Beach protest.
- “As we went into that Saturday, previous to Sunday the 31st, we brought in additional Police Officers that, and lucky for us as a city we did not experience any activity, any protest activity, and, but the City of Los Angeles did extensively. So through the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department Emergency Operations Bureau, they asked for mutual aid, and we sent several dozen officers to the City of Los Angeles. They served up there very well. They came back safe and then came Sunday,”
Sunday, May 31st
After a night of civil unrest and widespread lootings, fire, and arrest in Los Angeles and surrounding cities, the LBPD prepares for a 3 pm protest. Throughout the previous night, the new Long Beach Civic Center with its glass facades was ringed with barriers. On Sunday at 1 pm a huge protest got underway in Santa Monica. By 3 pm Los Angeles television stations were showing widespread looting taking place in Santa Monica. By 4 pm L.A. television stations were showing the National Guard arriving in Santa Monica. It was about that time that Long Beach contacted the L.A. Sheriff’s department for Mutual Aid.
In Long Beach Mayor Garcia, City Manager Modica and Chief Luna along with senior city administrators and police command are in the Long Beach Emergency Operations Center in the 5th District. Chief Luna believes ” I can almost tell you that based on the information we had we actually overstaffed for what we thought was going to happen” .
3 pm Protest start time May 31st
Chief Luna’s statement:
- ” On Sunday we got information again that we were going to get some protests out in front of 400 Broadway. Although we did not have any numbers associated with it. And in getting ready for that day we brought in hundreds of additional Police Officers so that we can be ready for almost anything that could happen, and I can almost tell you that based on the information we had we actually overstaffed for what we thought was going to happen. But unfortunately for us, what started to happen is you got a lot of protesters that came..”
4 pm one hour into the Protest May 31st
Within an hour of the start of the protest City Manager Tom Modica declares a State of Emergency and Chief Luna states that Mutual Aid was called:
Chief Luna’s statements to the City Council regarding this time:
- “Within an hour of the time that the protest started, Our Incident Commander called for Mutual Aid.”
- “So when we called for mutual aid we got an extended ETA from an outside, another outside law enforcement agency that was in route to the city.
- “I know we called for mutual aid probably between 4:00 pm and 4:30ish that afternoon. So that is when the mutual aid process got started.”
8:40 pm City Leaders explain the National Guard being “offered” to Long Beach
Luna’s timeline skips to later in the evening and does not include the declaration of a State of Emergency, the 9 pm Long Beach curfew, when the looting started in Long Beach just after 5 pm, or that the LBPD declared an unlawful assembly at 6:00 pm in Downtown Long Beach. The next part of Chief Luna’s timeline begins just after 8:30 pm. when according to Luna the LBPD is still waiting and asking for more officers to be sent to the city.
Now almost 4 hours since the City Manager declared the State of Emergency, 40 min after sunset, 20 minutes before the 9 pm Long Beach curfew. and as the looting starts to spread across the city North and East, according to City Manager Tom Modica, the city is asked if they would accept the National Guard.
- “At that point, we were continually asking for more resources. And it was at that time that the local area had expended their law enforcement and then the city had to turn to the National Guard for assistance. “
City Manager Tom Modica’s version of the National Guard
Immediately after Chief Luna gives the answer above to Councilwomen Pearce, City Manager Tom Modica interjects further details. Modica’s details reveal that the city was “offered” the National Guard, and when offered the National Guard the city did not immediately say yes, but as described by Modica” one minute later we said yes”.
City Manager Modica:
- “ And, this is Tom, I’ll add to that as well. I remember that very clearly. It was around 8:40 or 8:45 and we got the word that it had been exhausted, that nothing else was coming. They asked ‘Would you accept the National Guard?‘ and one minute later we said yes. And that’s how it happened.”
Mayor Garcia’s comments after Modica
After the City Manager interjects, Mayor Garcia then speaks about the National Guard ( see transcripts below) including describing that he was told about the decision to say yes to the offer of the National Guard “within minutes that I was told Mutual Aid was exhausted and we were calling in the Guard”. Garcia then called the Governor and told the Governor “we needed assistance immediately”.
- “And just to ensure that once within minutes that I was told Mutual Aid was exhausted and we were calling in the Guard, I also personally put in a call to the Governor and let him and his team know that a request was in and that we needed assistance immediately.”
At 9:00 pm Mayor Garcia and Chief Luna appear in a televised press conference explaining that the National Guard had been called into Long Beach.
After Long Beach is offered the National Guard at 8:40 pm and the city accepts accepting the offer, and after Mayor Garcia calls the Governor “within minutes of being told” and telling the Governor “we needed assistance immediately”, the National Guard arrives in Long Beach around midnight.
- “So eventually the Guard got here. I want to say they got here around midnight.”
The transcripts of City Leaders answers at the June 9th City Hall meeting
As you read the transcripts you can follow along using the direct link provided below just before the transcripts start.
The Peace-Luna exchanges about May 31st take place immediately after the City Council moves to approve Agenda Item 29. That agenda item relates to keeping the current state of emergency that was declared by City Manager Modica on May 31st during the civil unrest. Pearce asks Modica if this was the time to ask Luna about the questions that she had first spoken with Modica about. Modica tells her this is the time.
For the audio of the direct exchanges transcribed below click on the link provided. After accessing the link below go to the far right side blue agenda menu, scroll down to agenda number 29 and click on it (see photo example below). The audio will begin directly on that item where the exchanges take place:
For City Council audio link click: JUNE 9TH AUDIO
Scroll to find Item 29 and find- then click on the item (see example below).
29. (20-0542) Recommendation to review the need for continuing the local emergency proclaimed by the Director of Civil Defense on May 31, 2020, and ratified by the City Council on June 5, 2020, and determine whether to terminate the local emergency at this…
After about two minutes of parliamentary procedure, Councilwomen Pearce began her questioning. Pearce starts by stating that she has questions from constituents and businesses in her district who want more information. Those questions center on when Luna will release details about arrests made during the May 31 looting and about when the National Guard was called.
Luna describes how the LBPD monitored other protests and prepared for May 31st
Chief Luna begins addressing Councilwomen Pearce’s questions by first outlining how the LBPD started to prepare for local civil unrest as the department “monitored” the civil unrest across the nation before the Friday, May 30th Los Angeles unrest. Luna goes on to explain how the LBPD reacted to the events in Los Angeles on the Friday and Saturday before the May 31st Long Beach Protest.
“ Mr. Mayor and members of the City Council. In regards to what happened on May 31st of two thousand twenty, we had information that we were going to have protests in front of 400 West Broadway. Right before that, the previous weekend from all the reports and the things that were happening across the nation, we were monitoring all the activity.
Our Police Department weeks before due to COVID started to enhance civil unrest training. Whether it was for training command staff, all the way down to the street level officers, equipment, and anything else that we may need.
So going into that previous weekend, to be exact, that Friday. If you guys all recall, there was a lot of unrest, not only across the country but here locally in the City of Los Angeles. Which caused us to significantly upgrade our response plan.
We actually activated our Department Operations Center that Friday before the 31st and also activated our Incident Management Team that Friday as well.
As we went into that Saturday, previous to that Sunday the 31st, we brought in additional Police Officers and luckily for us as a city we didn’t experience any activity, any protest activity, and, but the City of Los Angeles did extensively.
So through the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department Emergency Operations Bureau, they asked for mutual aid, and we sent several dozen officers to the City of Los Angeles. They served up there very well. They came back, everybody came back safe, and then came Sunday.
After 4 days of LA unrest, Luna believed the LBPD was overstaffed for May 31st, then “a lot of protesters came…”
Luna next addressed the Sunday, May 31st protest in his timeline. By that Sunday, the increasingly violent L.A. protests have been going on since Thursday and in those 4 days, the protests have grown larger each day. Several hundred people have been arrested, as widespread fires and looting damaged multitudes of businesses – all which has been broadcast nationwide on television. Chief Luna continues:
“On Sunday we got information, again, that we were going to get some protests out in front of 400 Broadway. Although we did not have any numbers associated with it. And in getting ready for that day we brought in hundreds of additional Police Officers so that we can be ready for almost anything that happened, and I can almost tell you that based on the information we had, we actually overstaffed for what we thought was going to happen.
But unfortunately for us, what started to happen is you got a lot of protestors that came in, and I want to emphasize that the majority of the protestors that were here, were peaceful, they’re doing the right thing. Protesting for the right reasons. And although a majority of the protestors were peaceful, there were many others who were specifically there looking for a confrontation with the police. And there was other small groups that were there unfortunately just to commit acts of theft. And some of them fed off each other in what really appears to be coordinated attack on our city. With thousands of protestors and 3 or 4 different groups doing different things.
And, so when you look at the whole thing, obviously we had some damage to some of our businesses, which I got to tell you, and there was a lot of conversations in the last couple of hours, about our Police Department, our Police Officers, and the way they respond. I couldn’t have been more proud of the way our officers responded. And no one is more upset than they are, other than probably the business owners themselves who lost a lot that day, because they feel like they should have done a better job protecting them. And so do we.
So I guess I can wrap that up by saying that our biggest win that evening was not having anyone get critically injured or killed. Cause that was our top priority is to makes sure no one got injured or killed.
Our biggest disappointment was feeling we failed our individual business owners…”
Luna continued on to speak about learning from the incidents and after the State of Emergency is lifted meeting with staff and making adjustments based on the Sunday events, adjustments that they have already made dealing with subsequent protests. He went on to support his officers and described what types of abuse the officers went through (available in audio link).
In addressing Pearce’s second question, there was some confusion over a reference from Pearce to the firing of the LBPD Officer Delgado over the widely reported baton photo Instagram posting, Pearce then explained that her question was about officers who used force during the protest and how are they investigated and what is the process? Chief Luna explained the procedures anytime an officer uses any form of force including non-lethal force (available in audio link).
Protest arrest details will have to wait as Luna updates arrests to 98 arrests, 71 which were misdemeanor citations
Pearce then goes on to ask Luna about the timeline on when information on the arrests made during the protests that include the number and type.
Pearce asked Chief Luna:
“You guys are great about talking about the process, but the data points are so important. When can we expect that report about the arrests made that night?”
Chief Luna replied:
“We are still gathering the information. As you can imagine with the entire department deployed, even our administration staff, getting some of these reports are going to be delayed, some. And even as of today’s date, I get more information about more arrests that took place back on the 31st and now on June 1st. Which were up to a total of 98 citations which include 71 citations, Now just for clarification, when I talk about misdemeanor citations that’s equivalent to an arrest.
So somebody may have been cited and technically it’s a misdemeanor arrest but they may have been released. But I know that night we had several arrests for either looting or what we call commercial burglaries, individuals that were breaking into businesses and stealing things as part, unfortunately of the protest that was going on.”
Pearce goes out of her way to try and get a timeline of when a report on the night’s arrests will be released
Councilwomen Pearce presses Chief Luna unsuccessfully on when an arrest report will be available with the data on the arrests. The councilwomen goes out of her way to give the Chief as much time as he needs but continues to press him for some type of timeline. Chief Luna refuses to give a timeline.
“So my question is not that I need a report today. It’s that are we looking at two weeks? Are we looking at 4 weeks? Are we looking at 8 weeks? Being in progress does not help anyone understand where we are. So I’m fine if it will take six weeks to get a report, but having some end timeline, you know, I think is the least that we can do for a community that has been through trauma, just like you Police Officers have been through trauma. If we did make arrests for looting… there’s that word, but I do not know a better word to use. But, if there were arrests being made for that my constituents that were asking me ‘Where were the police?’ during this incident, we should be able to say ‘Forty arrests were made that night in the case of looting’ . And so I am not asking for a lot of information, I’m asking for very like, here’s the numbers. Here’s the types, basic.
So I know everyone is exhausted and tired and you guys are working around the clock, so I didn’t need a report right away, but a timeline, a deadline, I do not think is too much to ask.”
Pearce continues explaining that she was at the protest and that she observed LBPD not reacting to incredible verbal abuse and was proud of them.
City Manager reveals that the city did not ask for the National Guard, it was offered to the city
Pearce tells Chief Luna that she has had questions from her constituents as to the timing of the National Guard request. Pearce explains that she knows that Luna and the Mayor have gone over the National Guard, but not in a Council Meeting.
While Chief Luna. Mayor Garcia and City Manager Modica continued the narrative that all resources had to be exhausted before requesting the National Guard, some new information did come to light about the timing and how the National Guard ended up in Long Beach around midnight.
Chief Luna responds to Councilwomen Pearce questions about the National Guard beginning again with a narrative on the “process”:
“If you allow me a second to look at a specific timeline that I have.
In regards to the process and the way it works.
Within an hour of the time that the protest started, our Incident Commander called for Mutual Aid. The way the Mutual Aid System works for the Long Beach Police Department is we go directly to, again, the Los Angeles Sheriff Department of Emergency Operations Bureau. They determine. one what the need is and how they are going to fulfill it. If they are going to fulfill your need.
If you remember on that Sunday the entire region was impacted by civil unrest. All of L.A. County. Almost all of L.A. County, the City of Los Angeles and other surrounding jurisdictions. I believe both the City of Beverly Hills and Santa Monica were significantly impacted, which drew a lot of the Sheriff’s resources up that direction. So when we called for mutual aid we got an extended ETA from an outside, another law, an outside law enforcement agency that was in route to the city.
At that point, we were continually asking for more resources. And it was at that time that the local area had expended their law enforcement and then the city had to turn to the National Guard for assistance.
So eventually the Guard got here. I want to say they got here around midnight. I’m looking at my timeline here. If my eyes were not so bad. I can quickly identify it here. But, yea, if you don’t mind let me get back to you on the specific time.
I know we called for mutual aid probably between 4:00 pm and 4:30ish that afternoon. So that is when the mutual aid process started.
It was again the Sheriff’s Department that determines who we get and within that process is how eventually the National Guard came to Long Beach. Does that answer your question or would you like me to go into more detail?
At this point, City Manager Tom Modica steps into the conversation about how the National Guard ended up in Long Beach:
“ And, this is Tom, I’ll add to that as well. I remember that very clearly. It was around 8:40 or 8:45 and we got the word that it had been exhausted, that nothing else was coming. They asked ‘Would you accept the National Guard? and one minute later we said yes. And that’s how it happened.”
Who asked the city, who they asked at the city and what happened in the critical one minute before the city said yes was not discussed. After Modica’s explanation,
After Garcia was told the city was calling in the National Guard, the Mayor then put in a call for help to come “immediately”
Mayor Garcia added these details about when he contacted the Governor:
“ I’ll add one thing Councilwomen Pearce also to that because I think it’s good, it’s a good question. I’ve been asked the same question about the National Guard. A lot of folks ask why the National Guard was not called in earlier. I think what your hearing from the Chief and the City Manager there is a process. The City of Long Beach does not control the National Guard.
Obviously, the resources are directed through the state, of course and through the Mutual Aid System., so we were very aware that, folks have that question and that once, only when mutual aid is then exhausted, can the National Guard then begin to come in.
I’ll just say, I’m not sure if I’ve shared this with you Councilwomen and others. And just to ensure that once within minutes that I was told that Mutual Aid was exhausted and that we were calling in the Guard, I also personally put in a call to the Governor and let him and his team know that, that request was in and that we needed assistance immediately.
And so I think the process that the Chief laid out is one that I think is important for folks to know. It was done as soon as we were able to do so.
The questions end
Councilwomen Pearce ended her questions, never receiving a commitment from Chief Luna about when a report on the arrests would be released. The Councilwomen did not press on any details about the National Guard from the Mayor, the City Manger or Chief Luna. Other council members then made supportive comments on Item 29 for keeping the current State of Emergency.