Rafu Wire and Staff Reports
A man who armed himself with a sword or knife and barricaded himself inside a gift shop in Little Tokyo was taken into custody Monday after an LAPD SWAT team flushed him out with tear gas, ending a standoff of about 8 1/2 hours, police said.
The incident began about 5:15 p.m. Sunday in Shinyodo in the Japanese Village Plaza at 335 E. Second St., said LAPD Sgt. Ed Perez.
“A man walked into a shop inside Little Tokyo Plaza, armed himself with a knife from the store and threatened to kill himself,” Capt. Howard Leslie, commanding officer of the LAPD’s Central Area, said Sunday evening. “We have officers on scene negotiating with the man. No customers inside the store or store employees were harmed.”
The SWAT team negotiated with the suspect and used tear gas to get him to come out about 1:40 a.m., Perez said, and the man was taken to County USC Medical Center for observation.
The suspect’s identity has not been made public.
The standoff started when the suspect refused the owner’s orders to put down a knife and samurai sword he was holding and assaulted a security guard in the store, Perez said. The guard was not injured.
The store was evacuated and officers locked the suspect inside until the SWAT team arrived and began negotiating with him, Perez said.
News of the standoff spread quickly through social media and local news stations, though some early reports stated erroneously that there was hostage situation and that the suspect was barricaded in a cutlery store.
Parts of Little Tokyo were closed to traffic and pedestrians, including Japanese Village Plaza and First Street between San Pedro and Central. The timing was unfortunate for local businesses because the Anime Expo was under way at the Convention Center and many participants had come to Little Tokyo to shop and dine.
Brian Kito of Fugetsudo and the Little Tokyo Public Safety Association (Koban) noted that he and customers at Suehiro restaurant, which remained open during the standoff, were sickened by the tear gas that drifted over from the plaza.
He added that the interior of Shinyodo was “trashed” in the process. The store, which specializes in kimono, yukata, hakama, happi coats, Japanese antiques and dolls, remained closed on Monday.
Musician and singer Arthur Nakane, who regularly performs on the JVP stage just a short distance from Shinyodo, was forced to abandon his sound equipment on Sunday night. Returning to the stage on Monday, he expressed gratitude to the authorities and his friends for protecting his equipment and allowing him to retrieve it after the incident.
Steve Nagano of the Little Tokyo Historical Society, who came to Little Tokyo while the standoff was in progress after receiving texts from friends, shared some of his observations: “First Street was cordoned off at San Pedro and filled with police and fire vehicles, 30-plus, parked all the way down to Central. Second was blocked off and had a few fire engines just outside the driveway to JVP, between JVP and Hikari.
“On Second Street I saw Arthur Nakane sitting in front of Komasa in his wheelchair, looking disconsolate, so I asked him what had happened. He, of course, was worried about his equipment, which was sitting on the stage. JVP was cordoned off from First to almost Second (Kula was open) and all the business were closed and empty, although a few of them looked like they just left with the lights still on. Police stood at the barrier tape …
“Arthur was performing right across from Shinyodo and saw most of what happened, that is people running out of the store and Officer [Jack] Richter closing the outer doors and tying or chaining the doors shut … I could see a few officers in front of the shuttered doors, looking like they were trying to view inside. They looked like they had something like a selfie stick with either a camera or mic on the end…
“No one knew how long this was going to take. Roy and Jordan of Japangeles were there, also worried as they left their kiosk unlocked …
“I called Brian Kito, who messaged Richter and [Officer Chris] Jarvis and was en route to Little Tokyo. I met him at the Koban. Most if not all the businesses on First Street were closed, not Nirvana, and passage beyond the Miyako was not allowed …
“I talked with the police and the JVP security, who was not allowed inside, about Arthur’s equipment and the security officer assured me that he would take care of the equipment … Next morning around 8, I went back and the barrier was moved to around the stage on the south side and north at Maneki Neko. I could see Arthur’s equipment on the stage and officers milling around …
“We witnessed officers enter Shinyodo with gas masks on and talked with an officer in a suit, who told us that all the inventory in the store was trashed, contaminated with the residue from the tear gas. Brian also told me that in addition to tear gas, the individual was pepper-sprayed … I don’t know when they fully reopened JVP, but when I went there after 12, it was business as usual except for Shinyodo.”