A first-hand account of the Scottsdale police response to Fashion Square looting

Chief Rodbell offers timeline of events

Posted 7/13/20

A stand-down order was not issued by any Scottsdale police official while businesses were being looted and burglarized, Chief Alan Rodbell states in a new report on the May 30 riots in Old Town …

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A first-hand account of the Scottsdale police response to Fashion Square looting

Chief Rodbell offers timeline of events

Posted

A stand-down order was not issued by any Scottsdale police official while businesses were being looted and burglarized, Chief Alan Rodbell states in a new report on the May 30 riots in Old Town Scottsdale.

A report and timeline of the night penned by Mr. Rodbell defines the events and police department’s subsequent actions when hundreds of people descended upon Old Town Scottsdale in the name of Black Lives Matter protests, which turned violent. The protesters, who are defined as “rioters” by city officials, reportedly caused millions of dollars worth of damages to Scottsdale businesses and properties.

Several people have been arrested since that night for their actions during the civil unrest.

In the days after the riot, Scottsdale Police Department was scrutinized by the community for its inaction to protect storefronts --- and criticized for its response to the events.

At the time, the police department pointed to being outnumbered by people, and prioritized keeping people safe.

Scottsdale City Council members in June called for an official look into what happened that night, questioning a “stand-down” call that caused the police officers to not engage the protesters who were looting.

Mr. Rodbell’s report is in direct response to the City Council’s request.
“Allow me to address the issue of a ‘Stand-Down Order’ upfront,” Mr. Rodbell states in his report to the council.

“There is only one person authorized to give a stand down order on a scene. That is the highest-ranking officer on the scene. I was on the scene on May 30, 2020 and was the highest ranking officer present, and I never gave a stand down order during the entire night/morning of May 30th/31st.”

Mr. Rodbell goes on to clarify: no stand-down order was ever given.

“As you will see in the attached timeline, on several occasions unit supervisors (sergeants) and lieutenants may have given tactical direction to pull back and regroup for both officer and citizen safety reasons. That is not a ‘stand down,’” he says. “I certainly support those decisions made in the moment and would not attempt to second guess those tactical decisions.”

Mr. Rodbell contends Scottsdale police never gave up the Fashion Square mall property at 7014 E. Camelback Road, stating officers were present, in full-force, until the interior of the mall was swept clear by officers.

“Against overwhelming odds, weapons pointed at officers numerous times, the police officers, deputies and state troopers who responded, maintained their discipline, their professionalism, protected life and property and quelled a disturbance that could very well have gone on longer, creating more property damage and loss, and ended more tragically,” Mr. Rodbell states.

“Facing significant threats, the officers never utilized excessive force or overreacted. This is the very definition of courage!”

Mr. Rodbell says it would have been a huge mistake for officers to attempt to “push” the riot elsewhere in the Old Town area.

“Riots are simply uncontrolled energy masses,” he said. “The plan was to contain the rioters to the mall footprint, as big as it was, confront and control the energy level and allow the energy to dissipate.”

In addition to police and rioters, many proprietors and community members armed themselves to protect property that night.

Mr. Rodbell points to armed citizens sitting on the rooftops of the Entertainment District to defend their property; other armed militia sightings were reported along 5th Avenue and inside one of the parking garages.

During the event, the police arrested people committing serious violations on the scene, and followed up with investigations in the aftermath.

“It was not tactically feasible nor prudent to make arrests beyond what occurred that evening,” Mr. Rodbell says.

“Our resources were extremely taxed during this event, and reducing our force, was the last thing I was going to do.”

Mr. Rodbell says all direction and operating decisions on May 30 were made within the hierarchy of priorities in mind: life safety, incident stabilization and protection of property.

“As a result, many attempts by the rioters to push into residential areas were thwarted and events where life threatening confrontations occurred were managed in real time,” Mr. Rodbell said. “This approach resulted in virtually no injuries, fires or catastrophic incidents, and much of the damage was centralized in the area surrounding Fashion Square, and not beyond.”

The debriefing

The contents of the report include several subjects, including the hours leading up to the civil unrest, the department’s response, and an examination of how social media tactics made this event different from others.

Contents of the report were produced from the following documents, it states:

  • Incident Action Plans;
  • CAD and Radio transmissions;
  • Municipal Security Camera Feeds;
  • Police reports, criminal case reports and damage reports;
  • Event intelligence (social media);
  • Employee injury and equipment reports;
  • Fire reports.

On-scene at the command structure included Chief Rodbell; Assistant Chief Popp; three mobile field force and rapid response lieutenants and police legal advisor Luis Santaella.

In the Emergency Operations Center were Assistant Chief Slavin; Commander LeDuc; Commander Nichols; operational support directors; an assistant fire chief; and an emergency manager.

When the department first learned about the planned protest at about 3 p.m., officials began to plan their operation preparing for the 10 p.m. call for protesters to show-up.

A total of 113 preplanned personnel dedicated to the Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall mission was approximately 113 --- this included 84 sworn police officers, three fire personnel, 1 legal adviser and 25 civilian employees.

The report shows their force included six canine officers; three officers mounted on horses; and eight officers on bicycles.

As of May 26, the Scottsdale Police Department has 378 fully trained and operational sworn officers. On a typical Saturday night, Mr. Rodbell stated, there are roughly 68 officers allocated to work across the city, with 26 specifically in District 2.

Police intelligence staff advised that they expected 45-55 participants to attend based on their intelligence estimate and review of social media, the report states.

“Previously the size of a large gathering could be reasonably estimated by the controlled posting of the event on social mediums,” Mr. Rodbell states in the report.

“During this event, the counter electronic surveillance tactic of copying and posting original screen shots made it impossible to accurately track the true number of persons planning on attending the event, in this case the preplanned riot of Fashion Square.”

Mr. Rodbell also points out the use of social media “Stories,” which only shows a post for 24 hours, and is visible to friends/followers of the post.

Another aspect of the evening, the report states, is that the security camera video for Fashion Square Mall was experiencing an outage.

“While the on-site security staff was able to view their own footage, linking those feeds into the SPD Communications Center was not possible. Although every effort was made to get the interior camera feeds up and running, they did not become available in the center or EOC until long after the rioting had begun,” Mr. Rodbell stated. “This problem has since been addressed and corrected by mall management.”

The report also outlines a number of tactics used by the rioters, including using radios and whistles; arriving in an organized and timed fashion; and deterring use of force, especially when media was present.

Timeline, according to police

The timeline points to 3 p.m. considered the “beginning of the event” when Commander LeDuc was advised that intelligence had been received about a planned protest at 10 p.m.

The next several hours includes preparation by the police department.

People began to congregate on the mall property at about 9:30 p.m.

As a result of not being able to fully evaluate the premises of the mall via technology a decision wad made for Command to forward deploy to the mall.
One group of 24 people had face shields and coverings.

At 10 p.m., Assistant Chief Popp made a call to the Department of Public Safety requesting assistance, which was denied due to demands on DPS at the State Capitol and downtown Phoenix from being overtaken by rioters.

At 10:04 p.m., comments on the police radio stated “Need officers over here, crowd getting erratic” at the east side of the mall, Dick’s Sporting Goods’ parking lot.

Right after the radio comments, the Mobile Field Force Lieutenant requested the deployments of pre-defined resources. Also at this time, the timeline states the crowd at Dick’s was becoming extremely aggressive, and people were donning masks and armed with improvised weapons such as baseball bats, crow bars and other blunt instruments.

At 10:04 p.m., crowds began advancing on to the mall property and announcements were made declaring an unlawful assembly.

“Rioters begin to spit on officers, were belligerent, and defiant to police commands. Officers were extremely outnumbered,” Mr. Rodbell’s report states.

At 10:13 p.m., a Public Safety Answering Point requested was made: “SPD to any surrounding East Valley agencies that can assist with either personnel or mobile field force reference our Fashion Square Mall...”

The report states that throughout the night, vehicles were seen around the perimeter of the mall slowing down and allowing people to be dropped off, which allowed the amount of people to surge in a short period of time.

At 10:18 p.m., a call for service was received stating: “Shake Shack door broken, rioters flooding in.”

At 10:24 p.m., rioters begin to surge on traffic positions, and an officer states the people are taking over the whole intersection.

“This continued to occur throughout the night, which effectively interfered with our ability to close roads and created numerous issues,” Mr. Rodbell’s report stated.

“It prevented the Mobile Field Force Lieutenant from deploying chemical munitions where needed out of concern for rioters retreating into traffic and concern for innocent motorists being affected and losing control of their vehicles.”

Over the next several minutes, it’s described on the timeline as rioters beginning to attempt to enter mall stores.

Rocks were thrown at officers at 10:31 p.m., followed by reports of police vehicles being damaged.

At 10:36 p.m., an officer reported that militia and 150 rioters were engaging off the mall property on 5th Avenue, and resources were reallocated to engage in a standoff with weapons.

At almost 11 p.m., officers were sent to rescue citizens trapped inside Oceans 44, who were unable to leave safely.

There were several reports of rioters with guns, and gunfire inside the mall.

An armed militia staged in the South Garage, dressed in full fatigues with body armor.

The timeline continues until 5:30 a.m.

Follow-up investigations

Mr. Rodbell says investigations into the civil unrest began about two hours after the riots ended.

Physical evidence gathered includes ammunition casings, blood evidence, personal property left behind, and video for various sources.

During the civil unrest incident, 12 offenders were arrested.

Since the initial investigation, 40 arrests have been made with over $214,000 in stolen merchandise has been recovered through the use of warrants, subpoenas, social media tips and other techniques.

Scottsdale detectives and the FBI continue to conduct video analysis recovering additional evidence and conduct on-going canvases of the mall and surrounding area to obtain additional evidence.

It is anticipated the investigation for several more months, Mr. Rodbell said.

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