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For the GTA Online deathmatch based upon this event, see The Los Santos Riots.

House in flames

Police trying to hold back rioters

The Los Santos Riots occur during the closing stages of the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas storyline. A major event in the Grand Theft Auto series, the riots started because of the acquittal of Frank Tenpenny during the antepenultimate mission in the game, Riot and it extends from that mission to the final mission.

The gameplay effects of the riots are enabled in-between missions, and they make gameplay treacherous.


The Beginning of the Riots

At Tenpenny's trial, he is accused of many charges including assault, corruption, sexual assault and police brutality; however, he is acquitted of all charges against him and Eddie Pulaski for lack of evidence. Pulaski does not appear during the trial - he is believed by Tenpenny and the media to be on the run, but the player/Carl knows otherwise. The charge of the murder of fellow officer Ralph Pendelbury (as seen in The Introduction) is also dropped. This sparks mass public outrage, leading to city-wide riots, yet these are mostly centered on the lower-class areas in eastern Los Santos. Carl Johnson and his friends/family (Madd Dogg, his sister, his brother, Cesar, Maccer and The Truth) watch the events at Madd Dogg's Crib, and on his way back to his house from Madd Dogg's crib, he first notices the riots.

Gameplay Effects of the Riots

The following conditions are in place within Los Santos during the riots, which continue between missions:

  • Pedestrians will often attack Carl, usually with their fists, with no apparent provocation, while others will attempt to carjack each other or Carl, making maneuvering difficult. Some even carry around television sets with them. Pedestrians will also attempt to drag Carl out of vehicles and then attack them with their fists or with firearms.
  • Carjacking - the primary element of obtaining cars that the player has depended on so much throughout the game - becomes a chore as the number of vehicles that the player can carjack plummets as many vehicles, including police cars and bikes, are abandoned and set on fire, exploding soon after. The player may want to utilize any personal vehicles stored in different safe house garages.
  • Engaging in certain outdoor activities, such as dating, spraying tags, and street racing, becomes more difficult, as riot conditions can interfere. Other activities such as gang warfare also become more difficult since the riot conditions will interfere.
  • Fire Trucks and Ambulances will become almost ubiquitous amongst fleeing traffic. This makes navigation on foot more difficult for the player, as they can be caught off guard and ran over by the speeding vehicles. This can cost the player valuable time and health if they are trying to claim territory.
  • The sky over Los Santos darkens, especially during the evening hours, presumably caused by smoke from flames and gunfire.
  • Many buildings catch fire, although the fire doesn't damage them.
  • Many sources of light, such as lamp posts, flicker constantly (some lights don't even turn on, leaving streets in complete darkness); and traffic lights blink yellow.
  • Police officers in cars, bikes or on foot, are seen much more frequently in front of CJ's house in Grove Street.
  • Police Mavericks can be frequently seen flying low over neighborhoods and around the city.
  • A loud, agitated murmur can be heard all across Los Santos.
  • Wanted levels take longer to disappear.

The riots are confined solely to Los Santos; there is no rioting in Red County, Flint County, or any of the other cities and towns (San Fierro and Las Venturas). In fact, only portions of Los Santos are affected, and the player can observe the riots subside and flare up again simply by moving across the invisible boundary of the riot zone. Examples include the area around the Inside Track in Downtown Los Santos, one block north of the Ammu-Nation in Market, or passing InterGlobal Studios in Vinewood to the east or west (or even moving north-south inside the studio walls).

Due to the dangerous nature of Los Santos during the riots, the player should exercise extreme caution around the city and it is not recommended to attempt any side-missions.

The Riots End

In the last mission of the game, Carl Johnson takes down Big Smoke in his crack den in Los Flores/East Los Santos. After Big Smoke's death, the building is blown up by Tenpenny, who then escapes in a fire truck, attempting to flee to the airport. Sweet grabs onto the firetruck, with CJ pursuing him in a white Feltzer. After Sweet is pushed off the truck by another officer, CJ catches him in the Feltzer, and they pursue Tenpenny through Los Santos, with many of the rioters throwing molotov cocktails and creating blockades. While crossing a bridge over Grove Street, Tenpenny loses control of the truck, crashing it into the road below and dying on the pavement. Due to his death, justice is seen to be done and the riots subside.


The riots are based on the 1992 LA Riots.

  • The riots caused massive widespread arson, murder and chaos throughout the city; in fact, this chaos actually takes place between missions and has drastic gameplay effects.
  • Several LAPD officers were accused of unfair treatment to African-American Rodney King, after King had engaged in a high speed chase with several police cruisers and a helicopter. After his car had been stopped, King had refused to comply and resisted a police taser. His joints were severely beaten by police officers, after the failure of the taser. Due to the court's inability to draw a verdict (the jury was mixed, knowing King had commited several serious crimes, but unwilling to fully excuse the officer's actions) they were acquitted, causing public outrage and race riots, in which many real gangs such as the Crips played a part. In the game, the riots ensue for a similar (but not exactly identical) purpose, starting when corrupt C.R.A.S.H. officer Frank Tenpenny is acquitted because of lack of evidence.
  • The Los Angeles Riots lasted six days (ending upon the California National Guard's mass protection of the area), and the final cost was $1 billion worth of damage, 63 deaths and 2,383 injuries.

In the HD Universe

According to some in-game dialogue and mentions in the media inside Grand Theft Auto V, a riot also occured in the HD rendition of Los Santos in 1992, though it is unknown what started this incarnation of the riots. This is another Easter Egg.

Gang member glitch

There is a major glitch in the game when the riots are happening in Los Santos. If the player travels to any other town or city in the state, members from the Grove Street Families and Los Santos Vagos can be found talking in the streets, and driving around, quite frequently. The GSF members will recognize Carl and try to interact with him. The Vagos will also recognize that Carl is from Grove Street, but will react in a far less aggressive way than in Los Santos. If Carl aims a weapon at them, they will most likely run away. The two different gangs will keep peace, and will not interact with each other. GSF members, however, are less frequent than the Vagos, and can rarely be found anywhere else than in Las Venturas. The gang members will not appear after the riots subside.




  • Certain aspects of the real life Los Angeles riots (such as race relations and income inequality) are toned down or even unmentioned in the in-game riots.
  • If the player attacks a looter carrying a television, they will drop the television and it will fall through the ground. If this is done over water, the television will float.
  • When one enters any emergency vehicle, then go to an area where the riot occurred, the following dialogues on the police scanner has changed. While listening to one of the conversations, one can hear screaming, people shouting, sirens, explosions, alarms, etc.
  • When a train passes where the riot is started, the driver will get out of the train.
  • Strangely, if one walks close to a cloud of smoke coming from a building, and stands over it, it disappears.
  • If a Firetruck attends a burning building, it will shoot the water cannon in various directions instead of towards the fire. This can sometimes happen even while the truck is driving past, knocking the player over with a blast of pressurised water.
  • Police Radio Chatter during the riots reports riot related disturbances throughout the state. This may be a developer oversight but it can also suggest that originally the riots happened within the whole state.
  • Police officers, gang members, paramedics, and firefighters do not turn hostile during the riots, unless they are provoked.
    • However, gang members will start shooting anyone who fires a gun.
    • However, if a gang member spawns driving a car, he will turn hostile and get out of the car.
  • Drug dealers will still spawn throughout Los Santos, but they will no longer drop a large amount of money when killed.
  • Even when you have only one wanted star, lots of police officers will go after you as if you had 2 stars, this is because the police are more active when there is a riot.
  • Street criminals, prostitutes, drug dealers, gang members and whoever punches a police officer have a chance of spawning with a pistol and will use it to fight.
    • However, drug dealers will first use their fists, and once they get punched, they'll use their gun.
  • If a motorcycle catches on fire and explodes right when it spawns, it will have no driver on it.
  • Fire Trucks, Ambulances and bicycles are the only vehicles that will never explode right when they spawn.
  • Inside any building, despite having a riot going on, everything will be normal inside it, the pedestrians will not fight, and the interior will not be on fire, even if there was smoke coming from it before you entered it.
  • Any pedestrian driving a car (except police officers) will get out of the car just to attack the pedestrians. They will also jump out of their car if it is on fire.
  • Police chases will still spawn during the riots. However, the criminals will get out of their car and will either shoot at each other or at the closest pedestrian instead of the police.
    • However, since the police are not affected by the riot whatsoever, they will still shoot at the criminals and nobody else.