Cellphone video leads to 23 arrests for Bellevue Square Mall looting frenzy

BELLEVUE, Wash. — Bellevue police arrested 23 looting suspects wanted for breaking into the Bellevue Square Mall on May 31, including a 26-year-old Renton man accused of coordinating several burglaries of mall and other retail stores while Bellevue police officers were closing streets and rerouting traffic during the George Floyd protests, according to Bellevue Police Chief Steve Mylett.

"People thought they got away with it," said Mylett, who spoke over a display of $19,000 in recovered stolen clothing from Bellevue Square Mall and Men's Wearhouse, adding that it's a fraction of the stolen items that have been recovered, and will be returned to stores.

Mylett said crowds of looters ran past him and other officers, laughing, knowing police were overwhelmed by the sheer numbers. "There could have been 1000 to 2000 people in the mall," he said, adding that some looters fired bullets inside the mall to break glass, stealing everything that could be carried.

>> Bellevue police chief says looters are part of organized crime ring

Detectives say in the weeks that followed the mayhem in the mall, 10,000 video clips were sent by Bellevue citizens to a website dedicated to police tips. One of the clips showed a familiar tattoo of a 26-year-old suspect from Renton who police believe organized the entire crime, according to Mylett.

In the suspect’s home home they discovered stolen clothes with store tags, an AK-47 rifle with a silencer, handguns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition all inside a baby’s crib with diapers nearby, according to Mylett, who added there was also evidence of a drug ring found in the home.

"We found methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, drug scales baggies and paraphernalia which is consistent with the sale and distribution of narcotics," Mylett said.

Mylett says the organized crime was timed to be camoflaged under the wave of protests against police for the killing of George Floyd. "I can't emphasize enough how repulsive it is that people would take and exploit the homicide of George Floyd to further their criminal intention," he said. "It's wrong!"

And he says the threads of this “incredibly destructive crime” are now unraveling connections to other cases of looting from Bellevue to Seattle and beyond.

"We're convinced that the same group that did it here did it elsewhere."

He says 100 people have been identified and will be arrested soon, with even more suspects to come. He credits people sending video for helping them do it.

“We’re just getting started; this is going to be a long process,” he said.