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US: 18 arrested as violence flares after Lakers win: US police

16 Jun 2009 2:44 AM

LOS ANGELES, June 15 AFP - Eighteen people were arrested and eight police officers were injured in violence that erupted as rowdy fans celebrated the Los Angeles Lakers NBA championship triumph, police said on Monday.

Los Angeles Police Department spokeswoman Norma Eisenman said 13 police and sheriff's vehicles and six buses were damaged in the violence, which took place mostly in downtown near the Lakers home at the Staples Centre late on Sunday.

Thousands of fans gathered in front of the venue on Sunday to celebrate the Lakers's 99-86 victory over the Orlando Magic in Florida, which saw them clinch an unbeatable 4-1 series lead.

Police later dispersed the crowd as celebrations turned ugly, with cars being attacked and bonfires lit.

A shoe store and gas station were looted by revellers while police said an abandoned bus was vandalised.

Fans gathered at traffic intersections near the Staples Centre violently rocked cars from side to side as they waited at traffic lights.

Eisenman said the 18 arrested were held for various offences including arson; failure to disperse; inciting a riot; and misdemeanour warrants.

Some officers were injured when fans hurled bricks and bottles, said Los Angeles police sergeant Andy Mathes.

LAPD chief William Bratton told Fox11 television that officers "used minimal levels of force, behaving very professionally," despite attempts by "knuckleheads" to provoke them.

Violence also flared in Los Angeles after the Lakers NBA finals victories in 2000, 2001 and 2002.