Tuesday , 11 December 2018
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Reports of mall disturbances light up social media

A flurry of reports of mall melees and disturbances rippled across social media Monday on a day Americans swarmed shopping hubs for post-holiday bargains.

Disturbances that led to some malls being evacuated included reports from Elizabeth, N.J.; Fayetteville, N.C.; East Garden City, N.Y.; Aurora, Colo.; Tempe, Ariz.; Beachwood Place, a suburb of Cleveland; and Memphis.

About 10 people were injured during a melee at the Jersey Gardens mall in Elizabeth on Sunday evening, Mayor Chris Bollwage said in a tweet.

The injuries were non-life-threatening, Bollwage said. A fight in the food court led to false reports of a shooting after a chair was thrown and hit the ground loudly, officials said.

Posts on social media showed police with machine guns responding to the food court. Police evacuated the building as a precaution, and hours later there were still long lines waiting for NJ Transit buses as it began to rain.

Sergio Cleto, a tourist from Brazil, was waiting for a bus back to Manhattan. “We saw the kids fighting … then everyone began to run and everything is a mess after that,” Cleto said.

In Tennessee, police in Memphis shut down Oak Court Mall on Monday evening after an altercation involving multiple youths in the food court area. It was one of two mall disturbances Monday evening, following on the heels of an altercation quelled by police at Wolfchase Galleria.

Police on the scene at Oak Court were not immediately available for comment, but witnesses who were told to leave the East Memphis mall said it began with a dispute between a boy and a girl and quickly escalated to involve others.

Rakelia Wilkinson said at least one other girl intervened after a fight broke out between the first girl and her male companion. She said there was talk on social media of disturbances that may have extended to other places as well.

At Wolfchase, MPD spokesman Louis Brownlee said a large group of people started a disturbance inside the mall, also near the food court, about 6:30 p.m.

“Some patrons began calling 911 reporting shots fired, ” Brownlee said. “There were several officers already on the scene and advised no shots were fired, and no injuries have been reported.”

Memphis police acknowledged a lot of social media chatter about the various mall incidents but couldn’t say for certain they were connected or organized by any one group.

In North Carolina, Cross Creek Mall in Fayetteville was evacuated after a brawl sent shoppers fleeing, WRAL-TV in Raleigh reported. Authorities said a confrontation broke out between teens in the mall food court at about 4:40 p.m. and quickly escalated, the station said. Fayetteville Police tweeted that there were unconfirmed reports of shots being fired, and the mall, not police, made the decision to evacuate. There were no shooting victims or property damage, according to police.

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Ref Cross Creek Mall. Reported shots fired. Unconfirmed. No shooting victims or property damage. Mall made the decision to evacuate, not PD

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False reports of a shooting sent shoppers fleeing at Roosevelt Field, an upscale shopping mall in East Garden City, N.Y., News 12 Long Island reported.  A fight broke out in the food court and panicked shoppers mistakenly thought shots had been fired, the station reported. It said police converged on the mall and gave an all-clear. Seven people were hospitalized with minor injuries, the station reported.

In Cleveland, police officers were called to Beachwood Place just after 6:30 p.m. after a fight that led to a mall lockdown, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported, and officers used pepper spray to disperse the crowd. One man and one police officer received medical treatment after being exposed to the pepper spray, the paper said.

In Aurora, Colo., “multiple skirmishes” on Monday afternoon at Town Center Aurora led to evacuations, KUSA-TV, Denver, reported. Police said no customers or officers were injured.

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UPDATE: Multiple skirmishes inside of the mall, no injuries to customers or officers. Officers working on clearing out p-lots at this time. https://twitter.com/aurorapd/status/813540700184776704 

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Officers in Tempe, Ariz., said they found no evidence of a shooting at Arizona Mills Mall after receiving a call reporting possible shots fired, KPNX-TV in Phoenix reported. There were two fights in the food court of the mall and no stores were put on lockdown, according to the station.

The day after Christmas is known as Boxing Day, a shopping fest akin to Black Friday in some countries such as the United Kingdom.

Contributing: Ron Maxey, The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal, and Patricia Alex, The (Bergen County, N.J.) Record. Follow Susan Miller on Twitter: @susmiller

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