Officers hurt as Laker title celebration gets wild

Los Angeles Police Officers are illuminated by a fire started by Lakers fans celebrating their teams victory in the NBA Finals over the Orlando Magic in downtown Los Angeles, Sunday, June 14, 2009. <br><I>AP Photo

LOS ANGELES - Downtown celebrations after the Los Angeles Lakers' championship win turned ugly as darkness fell, with some throwing rocks and bottles that left five police officers with minor injuries.

Police also said Monday that police cruisers were damaged, windows on public buses were smashed and fires were set in the street. Seventeen people were arrested Sunday night after police declared the gathering an unlawful assembly, authorities said.

Five officers had minor injuries, Sgt. Andy Mathes said. One of the officers was taken to a hospital and the others were treated at the scene.

Reinforcement officers were called in from throughout the city to help disperse the crowd, officer Karen Rayner said.

Television footage showed people jumping on police cars, rocking vehicles attempting to pass through the crowd, setting small trees on fire and throwing bricks at empty buses. A gas station and a shoe store were looted, police said.

Chief William Bratton told KNX radio Monday that police planned to watch the video in an attempt to identify vandals and make further arrests.

Bratton commended his officers for showing restraint despite "a lot of provocation from a number of knuckleheads," he told KTTV-TV.

"It's not easy to stand there when cowards in the middle of the crowd are throwing rocks and bottles at them," Bratton said.

The 17 arrests were for disturbing the peace, arson, outstanding warrants and other infractions, Rayner said.

Across the country in Florida, the Lakers beat the Orlando Magic 99-86 in Game 5 of the NBA finals Sunday night to win their 15th championship and first in seven years.


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