Some of the 200 or so bystanders at a so-called illegal "intersection takeover" in downtown San Diego were lucky to walk away after a car nearly crashed into them, an incident caught on cell-phone video.
The incident occurred around midnight on Saturday at the intersection of Broadway and the Pacific Coast Highway.
The location was the site of a similar incident last July.
“We take this very, very seriously,” San Diego police Lt. Adam Sharki told NBC 7 told NBC 7 at the time.
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Police said street and intersection takeovers are a growing problem, not just in San Diego but across the country as well. Because it happens so frequently, Sharki said last year, law enforcement has been getting special training on how to safely stop it and arrest the people who put their own lives and the lives of others at risk.
Despite the arrival of law enforcement at Saturday's illegal car exhibition, however, nobody was taken into custody.
According to Bianka Fimbres, who shot video of Saturday's takeover and shared it with NBC 7, the incident lasted at least 20 minutes she was aware of prior to harbor police officers arriving at the scene.
"It was pretty stressful to watch 'cause you think someone's gonna get hit … people think they're experts," Fimbres said.
The South Park woman said she was working in a restaurant on the 19th floor of a nearby building when she saw co-workers out on a balcony watching the scene unfold and went out to join them. So, how loud was it, way up there? A 10, Fimbres said.
On Fimbres cell-phone video, one of the cars — she said she saw three in all that were involved — very nearly slams into bystanders with its rear end as it did a so-called "donut." It was the closest call she saw, Fimbres said, but not the only time people could have been injured.
"There were some people that were, like, trying to touch the car … at one point someone sat in a chair in the middle of the intersection," Fimbres recalled
On Thursday, San Diego police said they were not aware of any arrests that were made. A spokesman said harbor police units were on scene when SDPD patrol cars arrived and that the crowd had dispersed by that point. The spokesman said no follow-up investigation was anticipated.
Fimbres said the cars involved just drove away in view of the police without any attempt at stopping them.
"They just put their sirens on" when the patrol cars arrived, Fimbres said. "That's when everyone scattered. I didn't see anyone get tracked down. Pretty much what you see," adding that she assumed "they did that for everyone's safety because there were a lot people in the intersection and a lot of cars, just on the road, stuck in traffic."
A spokesman for the harbor police confirmed no arrests were made.
"As officers neared the intersection, they turned on their emergency lights and sirens," Port of San Diego Harbor Police Department Sgt. T.D. De La Peña told NBC 7 in an email. "The suspects began to leave the area on foot and in vehicles. In an effort to de-escalate the situation, officers did not pursue the vehicles as they left the area; the violation had stopped and the risk of injury outweighed the severity of the misdemeanor offense committed."
Given the site of the takeover and its timing, when few people are typically around, it seems possible that it was a pre-arranged event, which would mean that both the drivers and the spectators could have been criminally charged, had they been taken into custody.
"Being a spectator [at such an event] is a misdemeanor under the municipal code," Sharki told NBC 7 via email, adding that people who do so can get up to six months in jail and a fine of $1,000, as can the owners or operators of the vehicles involved.