The shops in the mall had closed hours earlier on the holiday eve, but the parking lot had become strangely busy again when a driver stepped into the hopped-up silver Mustang, then stepped on the gas, breaking loose the rear tires and unleashing a lurid slide to the cheers of those standing just feet away in potential danger.
It's called a "sideshow" in this corner of underground automotive subculture, where participants glean their thrills from both the powersliding known as drifting, and--like street racers--from the cat and mouse game with authorities attempting to track it down and rein it in.
With plans shared through discreet back channels on social media, those in the know gather in automotive flash mobs--sometimes on public streets, but more often after hours in the large parking lots of suburban big box stores.
Top news of the day
They prefer holidays and weekend nights, because even sideshow devotees have to go to work and school.
So it was that a series of parking lot sideshows popped up without property owner permission on the night before Independence Day, including one in the parking lot outside the West Covina Kmart, and another in Ontario outside the El Super on Mountain Avenue. Participants brought along fireworks as well.
It's more than a block to the nearest Ontario home, but the screaching tires and exploding pyrotechnics woke Debbie Cisneros.
"I was like, 'what the heck is going on?'" Cisneros recalled Wednesday. "The screeching and the fireworks! My poor dogs were so scared."
As it happened, she needed to do some Independence Day shopping at El Super, and was startled to see the circles of black tire rubber laid down in the middle of the parking lot.
"It's crazy," she said.
"Then they just leave and go to another parking lot. Isn't that it?'" said another shopper, Tim Potter.
Indeed, the sideshow crowd dispersed after police arrived. It's believe many of the same also appeared at the West Covina sideshow.
Discussing it the following day, some shoppers said if the sideshows are going to happen, it's better to be in otherwise empty parking lots than on public freeways or especially the freeways that have sometimes been targeted for sideshow takeovers.
But not all are persuaded.
"They shouldn't do it at all," said a shopper from Lakewood who asked to be identified simply as Ron. He recalled the incident in a Bellflower parking lot last year when a drifting car went into the crowd, injuring several.
Police said they were not aware of any injuries at the Tuesday night sideshows in West Covina and Ontario.