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Witnesses describe moments when Waymo car was torched in SF Chinatown: 'Mob Mentality'

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SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- We're learning more about a brazen act of vandalism on a driverless vehicle in San Francisco's Chinatown. The incident was caught on camera Saturday.

Police say a Waymo car was set on fire by a mob of people. It happened during Lunar New Year celebrations. No one was inside the car and officials are vowing to make arrests.

"They were putting out some rage for really no reason at all. They just wanted to vandalize something, and they did," said Edwin Carungay.

Carungay came to Chinatown for Lunar New Year celebrations Saturday but never expected things would take a destructive turn like this. A Waymo driverless car stopped in traffic was vandalized and set on fire by a group of people. All of it was caught on camera.

"One young man jumped on the hood, and on the windshield. That kind of started the whole melee," Carungay said.

MORE: SF couple describes feeling 'trapped' riding in Waymo driverless car that was being attacked

Witnesses say about a dozen people were involved. One person is seen on camera using a skateboard to break the car's windows.

"Then someone threw a firework inside the car," said witness Nathan Vandersteen.

Vandersteen said he watched the car fill with smoke and catch fire.

"Eventually people backed away. It was dangerous. The car could have exploded. It was a mob mentality, the adrenaline of the situation, it was mostly young teenagers responsible for damage and vandalism," said Vandersteen.

The Fire Department responded and put out the flames.

By Sunday, debris and ash left behind told the story of what happened on Jackson Street where the Waymo was set on fire.

In a statement, Waymo told ABC7 News: ' The vehicle was not transporting any riders and no injuries have been reported. We are working closely with local safety officials to respond to the situation.'

The SFPD says it's investigating, but so far- no suspects.

"It's totally unacceptable, particularly horrific they did it during Chinatown's most important day of the year, totally disrespectful," said San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin.

Peskin says police are collecting lots of video evidence of the crime in progress.

"I talked to them today. They've got good leads. I'm hopeful, if not confident, that arrests will be made," said Peskin.

Anyone with information is asked to contact SFPD at 415-575-4444 or text a tip to TIP411 and begin the message with SFPD.

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live

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