2020 | Police & Fire

UPDATED: Police investigating damage to Saks Fifth Avenue in Friendship Heights

Officers increase presence due to protests in D.C.

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This story was updated at 8:42 p.m. on Oct. 29, 2020, to include additional information from Second District Commander Sean Gagen

Montgomery County police are investigating damage to the Saks Fifth Avenue department store Wednesday night in Friendship Heights.

Capt. Tom Jordan wrote in an email that officers responded to a call for a burglary around 10:50 p.m. Wednesday. Officers, he wrote, “found damage to the front of the store.”

Second District Commander Sean Gagen wrote in a letter to the Willoughby of Chevy Chase Condominium residential community on Thursday that officers were tipped off on Wednesday to the possibility of looters that might target Friendship Heights, as protests were breaking out in D.C. over the death of 20-year-old Karon Hylton.

Gagen, whose district includes Friendship Heights, wrote that officers saw several vehicles drive into the county from D.C. that were “clearly suspicious.”

“A short time later several individuals tried to break the glass door at Saks. They were quickly detained and additional officers were requested to come down to help,” he wrote.

Gagen wrote that “several people” were later arrested after they broke into cars in Chevy Chase. It was not clear if the arrests included anyone who tried to break into the store, or whether any of the activity was connected to the protests.

Gagen’s message was shared on a neighborhood listserv. He could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday night.

Jordan wrote in his email that several groups of people were walking around the area at the time of the vandalism.

“It is unclear if those groups of people were involved and the matter remains under investigation,” he wrote.

In a follow-up email, Jordan wrote that because the vandalism is still under investigation, “it is hard to determine whether there was a nexus or not” to the D.C. protests.

“Protests and criminal activity are two different things,” he wrote.

Representatives from Saks Fifth Avenue’s Friendship Heights store and corporate office declined to comment to Bethesda Beat on Thursday.

Hylton died on Oct. 23. D.C. police said in a press release that he was riding a moped without a helmet and officers tried to make a traffic stop.

Hylton’s death has sparked two nights of protests, including clashes between demonstrators and officers on Wednesday, The Washington Post reported.

When Hylton exited an alley on his moped, he struck another vehicle, police said. Hylton was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Gagen wrote in his message to The Willoughby that there will continue to be a heavy police presence in Friendship Heights as a deterrent during the unrest in the district.

“This will be ongoing until things calm down in D.C.,” he wrote.

The Friendship Heights Saks was broken into this past summer during the protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis after an officer kneeled on his next for several minutes.

Looters damaged multiple businesses on the D.C. side of Friendship Heights during those protests. Montgomery County police also increased their presence in Bethesda and Chevy Chase during those protests as a precautionary measure.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com