KUALA LUMPUR - Contrary to social media reports, the fights and rioting at Low Yat Plaza over the weekend were not racially motivated but stemmed from a simple theft, says the Inspector-General of Police.
Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar added that there was no element of fraud on the part of the smartphone retailer either.
He said blogger Papagomo was among those who had spread malicious reports on the melee.
"It is better for Papagomo and the others to surrender rather than be arrested," he warned.
Khalid said police arrested 19 people between the ages of 19 and 26 and they would be remanded for four days.
Detailing the chronology of events to reporters at the plaza, Khalid said two thieves were arrested on Saturday itself at the site but one was released by an investigation officer.
He said police were investigating the said officer but added that while he had the discretion to release the suspect "he should have referred to his superior" first.
Khalid said the released suspect then made up stories to his friends that the retailer Oppo cheated the two of them.
In truth, however, the IGP said, the two had stolen the phone from another smartphone kiosk
But when the suspects tried to run away, Khalid said the Oppo staff, hearing the cries for help, helped catch them and passed them on to the mall security guards.
"According to the accomplice, he had a receipt of purchase but when we checked, it was not true," said Khalid.
"He also claimed that he had filed a report with us (of being sold a fake phone) but when we checked our system, there was none.
"He is a cheat! So, please stop spreading false news," said Khalid.
He added that police would be monitoring social media posts that could jeopardise racial harmony.
City police chief Comm Datuk Tajuddin Md Isa too said rumours and false information on social media played a huge part in the escalation of violence at the plaza.
During a press conference at the city police headquarters here, he did not rule out the possibility of investigating provocative postings that bordered on sedition.
On the video of a man giving a racist speech near the plaza that went viral, Comm Tajuddin said he had been identified and would be investigated.
Comm Tajuddin, who said the theft occurred at about 4.40pm, refuted claims that the main suspect was a policeman's son.
"He tested positive for drugs. He has been remanded until tomorrow (Tuesday).
"On Sunday, a group of people who gathered at Low Yat in the evening, dispersed before midnight. However, after 12.45am, rioting occurred.
"Some four hours later, an unmarried couple was attacked near the mall," he said.
Of the 19 arrested, Comm Tajuddin said they were involved in the theft, Saturday's riot as well as two instances of rioting with weapons early yesterday morning.
"Some seven people were injured during the incidents, including three media practitioners."
Comm Tajuddin said heavy police presence would be maintained near the mall as long as it was needed.
"I can confirm that the situation is safe and under control."