AURORA | Five juveniles were arrested Monday evening after mayhem broke out at the Town Center of Aurora Mall, prompting police to close and evacuate the whole shopping center after a a bevy of fights broke out inside and then outside the mall.
Police said as many as 500 people were involved in “multiple skirmishes” that broke out about 4:30 p.m. There were no reported injuries, and police said they saw no evidence that any weapons were involved.
Investigators said the fights were threatened on social media earlier in the day and when they materialized, reinforcements were called in to clear the mall.
Aurora Police told Denver area media that it appeared a rash of similar skirmishes at malls across the country — including one in Aurora, Illinois, which caused some confusion — were unrelated to the Aurora, Colorado melee.
Police said the incident started with a fight in the food court. An Aurora officer working security at the mall tried to arrest one person involved in that fight and was surrounded by a large and unruly crowd, police said.
“As the officer was attempting to escort the arrestee to the Aurora police substation inside of the Town Center, the crowd continued to advance on the officer and several other fights broke out,” according to police spokesman Sgt. Chris Amsler.
Police said they suspect that postings on social media drew more people to the site.
“The crowd grew in size to approximately 500 people (mostly juveniles),” Amsler said.
The officer called for help and about 50 officers, including some from Denver and Arapahoe County, arrived to assist.
During the chaos, more fights happened in the parking lot of a nearby theater and bus stop, police said.
Police told parents and family members at about 5:30 p.m. to come and get their children or others, closing and evacuating the mall.
Aurora police tackling and dragging teen age kids, no bigger than 120 pounds and using excessive force on these children. Stop the police pic.twitter.com/edKCur5k7Y
— Lala Muniz (@LalaMuniz4) December 27, 2016
A witness video posted to Twitter depicts police rounding up and detaining screaming and yelling teenagers or young adults.
Some witnesses said police appeared to be heavy-handed with detaining and arresting people involved or just nearby the skirmishes.
No one was allowed back inside the mall Monday night, and those not in the area to pick up people were asked to stay away to help alleviate road congestion.
The mall’s official Twitter page confirmed the closing around 6:30 p.m. and said the mall would open at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
In August, a man was shot in the mall parking lot, in what police said was an isolated incident. A shooting in the same parking lot in March left a 25-year-old man wounded. Sabadu Colbert-Evans, 25, was arrested in connection with that case and later charged with second-degree attempted murder.
A 19-year-old woman was shot inside the mall in 2005 while attempting to break up a fight. For years, the mall and struggled off and on with allegations that it was frequented by gangs, and that it subsequently harassed black patrons, making it a target for local activists and periodic protests.
A Denver TV station recorded a mall employee in 2004 saying that the mall was being remodeled in order to bring in more white customers and fewer young black ones. Mall owners denied the employee’s claim and fired him.
Mall fights across the country Monday send post-holiday shoppers scrambling for exits
BEACHWOOD, Ohio | Fights broke out at malls around the country Monday night sending shoppers, who were looking for post-holiday deals, scrambling for the exits.
No one was seriously injured in the mall melees, which, during the panic, also prompted numerous false reports of gunfire.
Police in Ohio told Cleveland.com that officers used pepper spray to disperse a large crowd following a fight at an upscale shopping mall in Beachwood, just outside of Cleveland.
A report of shots fired was later determined to be unfounded.
One male juvenile was arrested for allegedly trying to hit an officer during the incident, which police said appeared to have been “loosely organized on social media.”
There were similar disturbances at malls around the country including in New York, New Jersey and North Carolina, where chaos erupted at a mall in Fayetteville and emergency medical personnel were called in to assist someone who had a medical episode while fleeing.
In Memphis, Tennessee, police arrested several people following fights at two malls there. No one was injured and no gunshots were fired, despite reports indicating otherwise.
“Somebody yelled ‘gun!’ and youths stampeded through the mall,” Deputy Chief Terry Landrum told The Commercial Appeal.
Police in Aurora, Colorado, near Denver, evacuated a mall due to multiple skirmishes.
The trouble reportedly began during an arrest when an unruly crowd surrounded the scene.
Aurora police spokesman Sgt. Chris Amsler said that as the suspect was being taking into custody, the crowd, which mushroomed in size to about 500 people, advanced on the officer and fights broke out. Five juveniles were arrested. No one was hurt.
In Aurora, Illinois, outside of Chicago, a mall there was temporarily shut down due to a large disturbance. Videos posted on Twitter showed mall security trying to get the situation under control.
There was no official word on whether any of the fights, which were also reported in Arizona, Texas, Indiana and Connecticut, were connected.
— The Associated Press