WASHINGTON: Fights, disturbances and false reports of gunfire caused chaotic scenes and shut down several malls across the United States on Monday during the typically busy post-Christmas shopping day.
Eight to 10 people suffered minor injuries during a melee in the food court at The Mills at Jersey Gardens in Elizabeth, New Jersey, the mayor there said on 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.
Similar disturbances unfolded across the United States on Monday at malls that were packed with shoppers returning gifts, using gift cards they received over the holiday weekend and searching for clearance deals.
Many involved calls of shots being fired and youths fighting. It was unclear if the incidents were connected.
A large fight between teenagers broke out in the food court at the Cross Creek Mall in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Police fielded several unconfirmed reports of shots fired, said a Facebook post by the Fayetteville Police Department, which also said the mall was evacuated.
The Hulen Mall in Fort Worth, Texas, was on lockdown, Fort Worth police said on Twitter. The CBS website there reported that police said officers responded to reports of gunshots but arrived to find that several fights had broken out involving 100-150 people. There were no injuries, police said.
At least one fight shut down the Fox Valley Mall in Aurora, Illinois, late on Monday, and police were called to quell the disturbance, the Chicago Daily Herald reported, citing managers of businesses in the building.
Online videos showed uniformed personnel directing mall patrons out of the building and customers fleeing down an escalator. Police and mall management could not be reached for comment.
The Town Center Aurora in Aurora, Colorado, was also closed early after multiple skirmishes were reported inside the mall, the Aurora Police Department said on Twitter.
In Monroeville, Pennsylvania, police arrested four youths after fights broke out at the Monroeville Mall, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
Police put the Arizona Mills mall in Tempe, Arizona, 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.
Police arrested one juvenile at the Beachwood Place mall in Beachwood, Ohio, where a large disturbance occurred, an ABC affiliate in Cleveland reported.