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Air Jordan shoppers mob stores, some pepper-sprayed

Police used pepper spray to break up fights among pushing and shoving customers outside a Seattle area mall to buy the first Nike retro Air Jordan basketball shoes early Friday.
/ Source: staff and news service reports

Across the country, the long-awaited release of Nike retro Air Jordan basketball shoes on Friday resulted in fights, arrests, and the use pepper spray as police tried to calm frenzied shoppers, many of whom had waited outside stores overnight.

In Richmond, Calif., a man was arrested after he fired a gun while waiting in line, KTVU TV reported.

In Seattle, Tukwila police officer Mike Murphy said more than 1,000 people lined up to buy shoes at 4 a.m. at four stores in the Westfield Southcenter mall.

He said police used pepper spray on about 20 people who were fighting, while one man was arrested for assault after police say he pushed an officer.

"He did not get his shoes; he went to jail," Murphy said.

"It was not a nice, orderly group of shoppers," Murphy said. "There were a lot of hostile and disorderly people."

Murphy said they smelled marijuana and found alcohol containers at the scene.

Kristopher Rush, 14, shows off the Nike Air Jordan shoes he got for Christmas from his parents Friday, Dec. 23, 2011, outside the Lafayette Square Mall in Indianapolis, where he waited in line with his father and brother for over three hours. Police were called in to control crowds of shoppers flocking Lafayette Square and Castleton Square malls in Indianapolis to control the crowds waiting for the shoes. The release of Nike's retro Air Jordans caused a frenzy at stores across the nation early Friday, with hundreds of people lining up for a chance to buy the classic basketball shoes and rowdy crowds breaking down doors and starting fights in at least two cities. AP Photo/The Indianapolis Star, Danese Kenon) NO SALESDanese Kenon / The Indianapolis Star

The stores sold out and all but about 50 people got their Air Jordans, he added.

Carlisa Williams said she joined the crowd at Southcenter for the experience and ended up buying two pairs of shoes — one for her and one for her brother. But she said she'll never do anything like it again.

"I don't understand why they're so important to people," Williams told KING-TV. "They're just shoes at the end of the day. It's not worth risking your life over."

Hundreds of customers also lined up outside shoe stores in downtown Seattle and at a mall in Federal Way.

$605 on eBay
The Air Jordan XI Retro "Concord" sneakers, costing $180 retail, are based on a design that first went on sale in 1995.

The new shoes are already being advertised on eBay with asking bids of as much as $605.

Adding to frenzied demand from fashion-conscious shoppers and sneaker collectors, some stores have been given as few as 12 pairs each.

Here's a sampling of incidents elsewhere:

  • In Lithona, Ga., police told Fox 5 Atlanta that up to 20 squad cars responded to a mall after a large crowd broke down a door to get inside before a store opened. Police escorted most of the people back outside, but took four into custody. Officers said they had to break a car window to get two toddlers out after a woman went in after the shoes. They said she was taken into custody when she returned to the car.
  • In Arlington, Va., a large crowd was waiting outside the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall which let in a few buyers at midnight and then at again 6 a.m., NBC Washington reported. Police had to come for crowd control, and many customers left angry.
  • At St. Charles Towne Center in Waldorf, Md., people pushed open the doors at several entrances to the mall. Initially, they lined up outside the six stores that were set to sell the shoes, but people began pushing each other, trying to keep their places in line, and the scene turned chaotic. No individual stores were broken into. Officers arrested four juveniles and one adult for disorderly conduct.
  • In Dayton, Ohio, fights broke out among shoppers outside a store, and some people sold their spots in line.
  • In Indianapolis, Ind., hundreds stampeded a store, a few losing shoes and jackets along the way. One girl was nearly trampled, WTHR TV reported. "I actually jumped over the girl that fell. There was a few people on the ground but I jumped over 'em and kept running," said one shopper. Another shopper said she "was able to be the first one in, but I kinda hit my hand on the door. I was bleeding but it's all good. It was worth it."
  • In Taylor, Mich., about 100 people forced their way into a shopping center around 5:30 a.m., damaging decorations and overturning benches. One man was arrested.

It's not the first time the Nikes have caused an uproar. Some people were mugged or even killed for early versions of the Air Jordan shoe, which Nike Inc. created in 1985.

The shoe has been a consistent hit since then with sneaker fans. A new edition was launched each year, and release dates had to be moved to the weekends at some points to keep kids from skipping school to get a pair.

No one anticipated the hysteria around the original Air Jordan, which spawned a subculture of collectors willing to wait hours to buy the latest pair. But the shopping frenzy over the shoe had died down in recent years.

These latest incidents instead seem to be part of trend of increasing acts of violence at retailers this holiday shopping season, such as the shopper who pepper-sprayed others at a Walmart in Los Angeles on Black Friday and crowds looting a clothing store in New York.

Nike, based in Beaverton, Ore., issued a statement Friday afternoon saying: "We are extremely concerned to hear of the reported crowd incidents ... Consumer safety and security is of paramount importance. We encourage anyone wishing to purchase our product to do so in a respectful and safe manner."

The Oregonian reported the Air Jordan appeal is only partly nostalgia for the former NBA star Michael Jordan. Collectors known as "sneakerheads" save them for special occasions or never take them out of the box.