Hermosa Beach police are investigating a possible hate crime after a lighted firework was thrown into a crowd of hundreds at an LGBTQ+ Pride event.
Police responded to a call on the night of June 17 about an exploding firework being thrown at a crowd at a silent disco event at Vista, a bar and lounge on Pier Avenue near the Hermosa Pier, said Capt. Landon Phillips.
Fragments hit multiple people, but no life-threatening injuries were reported. Two people suffered minor burns, Phillips said.
“It was a large explosion,” he said. “It’s maybe an M-80 or a cherry bomb, but the explosion wasn’t just like a firecracker or an M-80, it actually had some pyrotechnics to it, so it was fairly large.”
Police released a video of the incident, which shows the male suspect lighting and throwing the explosive, then riding away on a gas-powered bicycle with an American flag attached to the back.
Police are searching for the suspect, who appeared to be in his late teens to early 20s and was wearing a black sweatshirt with yellow horizontal and vertical stripes and a red, white and blue helmet.
Phillips said the event producer told authorities there were about 400 people in the crowd.
Ricky Hayes, a South Bay resident who attends the silent disco each month, said he was standing 30 to 40 feet from where the firework landed and saw the suspect take off down a nearby alleyway.
Because much of the crowd was listening to music through headphones — typical of a silent disco — many attendees were confused about the sudden noise, including his wife and her friends.
“They were all singing karaoke at the time this happened, with headphones on, singing. It exploded and it obviously made them jump, but I think a lot of people thought it was maybe even a part of the event.” he said.
Phillips said the motive is unknown, but it is being investigated as a possible hate crime.
“We don’t know if the suspect was targeting that event or just targeting a crowd of people. We’re not ruling it out, so we’re investigating it as a possible hate crime,” Phillips said.
Hate crimes have been on the rise in California. Last year, 2,120 total hate crimes were reported — marking a 20.2% jump from the year prior, according to a California Department of Justice report released Tuesday.
Gay men were the target of 271 hate crimes, a 28.4% increase from 2021, according to the report. Hate crimes targeting transgender people increased by 55%, with 59 crimes reported.
Phillips said anyone with information about the incident should call Hermosa Beach police at (310) 318-0360.