Police Eye Social Media in Spate of Post-Christmas Mall Disturbances – ABC News
Police are eyeing social media in a series of disturbances that broke out at malls in several states the day after Christmas.
A mall outside Cleveland, Ohio was placed on lockdown after a large group of juveniles caused a disturbance at around 6:30 p.m. on Monday, police said.
The incident was “loosely organized on social media,” Beachwood, Ohio police said. One juvenile was arrested for disorderly conduct after officers dispersed the crowd and removed them from the Beachwood Place mall. No major injuries were reported.
Several fights broke out Monday night at the Fox Valley mall in Aurora, a suburb of Chicago, Illinois, causing police to evacuate the premises. Mall goers captured the chaotic moments on their cell phones and posted photos and videos to social media as terrified shoppers went scrambling for the exits. The problems began around 7 p.m, according to officials.
The Aurora, Illinois police department said they were called in to assist with “an unruly crowd in the common area,” followed by a fight in the food court and “several other smaller altercations.”
A spokesperson for the Aurora police said the department “made the immediate decision to evacuate and close the mall for the safety of all,” and said that more than 1,000 patrons gathered in the common area watching the commotion. Seven juveniles were arrested after 75 officers from multiple local police agencies came in to assist.
The spokesperson said police are working to determine what caused the fights and told ABC News that they are looking into social media to see if the incident may have been planned or organized.
The Town Center mall in Aurora, Colorado, a suburb of Denver, was also closed on Monday after a series of skirmishes and a large disturbance that officials believe began on social media.
Aurora, Colorado Police said a post on social media told people there was going to be a fight at the mall. A citywide call for assistance was placed after a fight that began in the food court soon drew in more than 500 people.
The Aurora police say the unruly crowd surrounded an off-duty officer as he detained one of the alleged combatants and attempted to escort the arrestee out of the mall.
“It is believed that a post on social media announcing a fight at the Town Center is what drew this unruly crowd to the Town Center of Aurora,” police said.
More than 50 officers from several agencies responded to the incident, during which five arrests were made. No serious injuries were reported.
Police in Fort Worth, Texas said they received notice about staged fights across the country that prompted security to escort workers at the Hulen Mall to their vehicles.
Fort Worth Police tell ABC News that they are investigating whether the disturbance was linked to social media postings.
The Associated Press reported similar incidents at malls 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, according to The AP.