Sunday night was supposed to be one of fundraising for a friend who lost his home in a fire last month, but the mood of the event quickly changed halfway through when an armed man entered the dance studio on Ocean Boulevard in Belmont Shore where the event was being hosted and demanded the cash box.
“I saw everyone’s demeanor completely change,” said Danielle Lewis, one of the organizers of the fundraiser. “Everyone just got really tense and it was really clear that something was happening.”
Lewis said that around 9:30PM, a man wearing a ski mask and armed with a gun entered the banquet hall at the Long Beach Dance Center and demanded the cash box. The robbery happened so quickly that not all of those attendance even knew that it happened. The night went on, the band continued playing and people continued to dance but for those who were aware of crime, disbelief took over the party vibe.
“I mean it’s Belmont Shore, it’s not really a bad area of Long Beach,” Lewis said. “So it’s definitely not high risk so it was shocking to me that something like that even happened.”
A spokesperson from the Long Beach Police Department confirmed that officers were dispatched Sunday April 19 to the scene of the robbery on the 5100 block of E. Ocean Boulevard next to Club Ripples where they conducted interviews with witnesses. The suspect was described as a Hispanic male between 20-30 years old, approximately 5’10” to 5’11” tall, with brown hair and was seen wearing black pants and a black jacket.
Because the investigation is ongoing, the department will not release any further information on the suspect or comment on how much money was taken during the robbery, although a person familiar with the incident estimated it at around $500.
The event was being held to benefit a Bluff Park resident who lost his home in a two-alarm fire in early March that resulted in the death of a dog and injured five firefighters. The fire, which was contained to one single-family home, was inhabited by a 27-year-old man and his 85-year-old father. Neighbors insisted that the house was an accident waiting to happen, citing poor up-keeping and what appeared to be a hoarding situation in the home.
The younger man, who is a member of the Long Beach theater community and prefers to be identified only by his nickname, “Elf Boy,” was the subject of multiple fundraisers put on by those connected to the theater community. According to organizers of the event that was robbed Sunday night, thousands of invitations were sent out to both the theater and swing-dancing communities in Southern California, many of whom attended.
The LBPD wouldn’t speculate on whether they suspect that the robbery could be tied to the invite list as the investigation is still active.
Anyone with information regarding the robbery should contact the LBPD Robbery Detective Jackie Parkhill at (562) 570-7464. Anonymous tips can also be submitted by calling 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), by texting TIPLA plus the information to CRIMES (274637) or by visiting www.lacrimestoppers.org