Breaking News Emails
A day after at least 15 large fights or disturbances that broke out at malls around the country, police were chasing leads and trying to determine what, if any, role social media may have played in the alarming rash of violence.
Police in Aurora, Colorado, which saw one of the largest disturbances in the country involving an "unruly crowd" of around 500 people, on Tuesday appealed to the public for help tracking down videos that might show some of those involved.
"We do not have any evidence to show that our incident is related to any of the incidents that happened around the country," Sgt. Chris Amsler told NBC affiliate KUSA in Denver on Tuesday. But police do believe a post in Facebook announcing a fight drew the large crowd to the Aurora mall, he said.
The size of the crowd overwhelmed had local authorities who called for help from neighboring departments, officials said.
There was chaos in over a dozen shopping centers around the United States Monday, some of which forced the malls to be evacuated. The Town Center in Aurora was among several malls that closed early Monday.
In two incidents, the sound of slamming or overturned chairs was mistaken for gunshots and panicked crowds, authorities said. In Chattanooga, Tennessee, a group of people set off fireworks, possibly to serve as a distraction while shoplifting, police said.
"I heard the pop, pop, pop and then automatically I heard people screaming ‘Somebody's shooting’ and then everybody was just running," Amanda Marler, who suffered broken bones in her foot during the crush of the crowd, told NBC affiliate WRCB.
At the Jersey Gardens Mall in Elizabeth, New Jersey, people scattered in fear after someone shouted "gun." But the noise turned out to be from slamming chairs, Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage said, and there was no weapon. The noise from an overturned chair during a fight at a Long Island mall sparked a similar panic, police said.
Eight juveniles, ranging in age from 13 to 17, were charged in a large fight at the Fox Valley Mall in Aurora, Illinois that led police to shut down the shopping center, police said Tuesday according to NBC Chicago.
In that incident, teens threw drinks and other items at police and security, and a police sergeant and security employee were battered, police spokesman Dan Ferrelli said. More arrests are possible, he said.
Seven young people ranging in age from 13 to 17 were arrested following a large fight at a Memphis mall; Five were arrested following two incidents at a mall in Monroesville, east of Pittsburgh; and seven were arrested following a series of brawls at a mall in Manchester, Connecticut.
Police in Beachwood, Ohio, east of Cleveland, said a large disturbance at the Beachwood Place mall "appears to have been loosely organized on social media." A report of a gun turned out to be unfounded, and police arrested one minor who allegedly tried to hit a police officer, police said.
Many of the malls involved had extra security due to expected crowds for day after Christmas sales, and said security would remain increased for some period following Monday’s incidents.