Talk about taking the whole flash mob concept to the next level. Brawls — mostly involving teens — broke out at various malls across the country on Monday evening. It’s not yet known if these were connected, but the timing is curious.
In Connecticut, fights broke out at The Shoppes at Buckland Hills in Manchester. Several hundred teens were involved in various fights, which led to the mall’s evacuation and closure for the evening. An incident involving eight to 10 people began near the food court, leaving one police officer with minor injuries.
Later in the evening, a verbal altercation involving several teens broke out at Westfarms Mall, just outside West Hartford. That one got shut down before fists could fly.
Manchester Police Capt. Chris Davis confirmed that several people have already been arrested and also said authorities were still trying to sort out what happened. He would not comment beyond that at press time.
As for Aurora, Illinois, the Fox Valley Mall was also forced to close Monday night at just about the same time, after a brawl broke out involving dozens of people. Police Lt. Rick Robertson said roughly 1,000 teens congregated in the mall, some running from section to section.
“When bottles began flying from the upper levels, officials decided to close the mall to prevent a large brawl,” he said. “It was a lot of kids and a couple of scuffles, and just for everyone’s safety it was best to get everyone moving along before one large incident occurred,” he added.
Robertson said he was aware of four people in custody Monday night, at least two of them juveniles, but he did not know whether they had been charged or what charges they might be facing. One police sergeant was punched in the face, Robertson said, but he was unaware of any other injuries Monday night.
Robertson said that he, too, could not speculate on a motive for the Fox Valley Mall gathering or fights, and he had no indication beforehand that fights might occur. Interestingly, an Aurora police officer on duty at the mall requested extra officers when he saw a large number of teens congregating, Robertson said.
He said police could not confirm or rule out that the Fox Valley Mall fights were connected to the incidents nationwide Monday night — although members of the Aurora Police Department initially tweeted they did not believe the fights were connected to the other brawls across the nation.
Photos and video clips posted on social media showed heavily armed police officers responding to the incident.
In New Jersey, things were a bit scarier. Eight to 10 people suffered minor injuries during a similar melee in the food court at The Mills at Jersey Gardens in Elizabeth, New Jersey, the mayor there said via Twitter.
Panic followed when someone shouted “gun” after a chair hit the ground — causing a loud noise in the mall’s food court, Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage tweeted.
Photos and video clips posted on social media showed heavily armed police officers responding to the incident as shoppers raced to exits and alarms rang out inside the mall. Video clips for many of these incidents have emerged on social media.
These disturbances unfolded across the United States on Monday at malls obviously packed with shoppers returning gifts, using gift cards they received over the holiday weekend, and searching for clearance deals. That said, no proof has yet surfaced that any of this is tied to gift returns or bargain hunting.
Also on the “mall mayhem” roster:
The Cross Creek Mall in Fayetteville, North Carolina: Police fielded several unconfirmed reports of shots fired, according to a Facebook post by the Fayetteville Police Department, which also said the mall was evacuated.
The Hulen Mall in Fort Worth, Texas: The mall was on lockdown, Fort Worth police said on Twitter. The local CBS website reported that police said officers responded to reports of gunshots but arrived to find that several fights had broken out involving 100 to 150 people. Again, these were large groups in what might have been “timed altercations.” No injuries were reported here.
The Monroeville Mall in Monroeville, Pennsylvania: Police arrested four youths after fights broke out at this mall, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
The Arizona Mills Mall in Tempe, Arizona: Police put the mall on lockdown after reports of shots fired inside the shopping center. Two people, including a juvenile, were arrested after two fights broke out at the mall, an ABC affiliate reported.
At the Beachwood Place Mall in Beachwood, Ohio: Police arrested one juvenile at this mall, where a large disturbance occurred, an ABC affiliate in Cleveland reported. Cleveland police officers said the incident appeared to have been “loosely organized on social media.” But so far there are no details on why they believe this or what they might have already discovered.
While this could be choreographed mayhem, a social media call to action — police may yet find another motive altogether. It is too early to say definitively.
The day after Christmas is known as Boxing Day, a shopping fest akin to Black Friday in some countries such as the United Kingdom. Could American youth have run with that?