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BPD Chief: Multiple Arrests Deterred More Looting Of Stores

Bloomington Police Chief Dan Donath
Izzy Carroll
/
WGLT
Bloomington Police Chief Dan Donath says he doesn't know if the nearly two dozen alleged looters his department arrested this week had political motives or if they considered it a crime of opportunity.

Bloomington Police Chief Dan Donath confirmed Wednesday that his officers used tear gas Monday night to help disperse a crowd of looters outside Eastland Mall.
Donath said officers were instructed not to engage or set a perimeter around the property.

“However, once the windows were smashed on the store and people started to loot the business, we responded with some CS gas and a diversionary device. This was very helpful to stop the illegal acts,” Donath said.

A WGLT reporter on scene also reported hearing a flash bang grenade go off.

Donath said police made seven arrests at the scene and arrested three people a short time later after a report of shots fired, and an attempted break-in at nearby Read’s Sporting Goods. Donath said three suspects were found running from the scene.

Donath said officers later Monday night arrested five people who were in a car driving without its lights on, adding officers discovered a trunk-load of Kohl’s merchandise and rocks the looters had been using to break into stores.

In all, 23 people face charges linked to the recent looting in Bloomington-Normal.

Donath said it appears those arrests served as a deterrent that kept the looters away on Tuesday night.

"When people understand there are consequences to their actions, that's a deterrent," he said. 

Donath said the looters seemed to organize through social media, but there's no indication they were paid as  Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner has suggested, or had a political motive.

“There would be organization through social media channels where people are sharing information, because there was definitely a concerted effort to go to certain locations in our community over the last few evenings,” Donath said. “There had to have been some organization for that.”

Donath also cautioned the public to be careful with what they read and share on social media. He referenced baseless claims that a large group was planning home break-ins in Bloomington-Normal.

“We saw similar postings or the exact same postings in other communities in Illinois, they just change the name of the neighborhoods. That told us this information was being pushed from someone somewhere else and not necessarily directed to Bloomington,” Donath said. “So we had no credible information to believe that was true.”

Donath said there have been a few home invasions in recent nights, but nothing out of the ordinary and there's no apparent connection to the store looting. He said the department uses its own social media as a main source to get safety information out to the public.

Donath said the department has boosted staffing in recent nights to better respond to the crime spree.

Bloomington Fire Chief Brian Mohr said his department also prepared for increased fire or paramedic activity.

“We have increased staffing slightly these last couple of days since about the first of the week in anticipation of higher calls, but that hasn’t happened,” Mohr said.

Bloomington City Manager Tim Gleason said the added public safety staffing will lead to additional costs, but the city hasn’t determined how much.

“It’s just one of those things you accept, but the actual number that’s not something we know yet,” Gleason said. 

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