An officer sprayed "a puff" of pepper spray in the air to have the crowd "regain composure," police said. They told NBC News that none of the substance was sprayed into anyone's eyes or face and that no one requested medical attention.
Police confirmed that one man was arrested but wouldn't confirm his identity as reported in local news accounts.
Updated 3:25 p.m. ET: An off-duty police officer used pepper spray Friday on shoppers at a Walmart in Kinston, N.C., NBC station WITN of Washington, N.C., reported.
Kinston police Sgt. Roland Davis said an off-duty officer the store had hired to help with security during Black Friday shopping used the chemical while trying to make an arrest during a disturbance.
Angel Bunting, who was shopping at the store, said a man fell into a display as people lined up for discounted cell phones. She said she believed it was an accident but security thought there was a fight.
About 20 people, including children, were affected by the pepper spray, she alleged, but that couldn't be confirmed.
In a video of the even posted on YouTube, which you can watch above, people are seen covering their noses and mouths before police handcuff a man.
Police arrested a 58-year-old man who they said failed to follow their instructions. The man, perhaps ironically, is a former Kinston police officer, CBS station WNCT reported.
"He was raining it over the whole crowd, so it will rain down on their heads," the man told the station. "Some of it got my granddaughter in her face and eyes, and she had to go the emergency room because she's asthmatic."