Violence Erupts Across the Country Around Release of Nike Air Jordans

Police pepper-spray unruly crowds in Seattle.

ByABC News
December 24, 2011, 11:14 AM

Dec. 24, 2011 — -- Violence erupted at shoe stores across the country as people tried to purchase Nike's new retro Air Jordan sneakers, which were released just in time for Christmas.

Thousands lined up at stores across the country to shell out $180 for the black and white Jordans -- named for Michael Jordan, who carried the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships in the 1990s -- that went on sale at midnight Thursday.

East of San Francisco, in Richmond, Calif., the Air Jordan sale was canceled after a gun went off outside the mall early Friday morning and the 24-year-old gunman was arrested. Richmond police say it may have been an accidental discharge of the gun.

Between 1,500 and 2,000 people who were waiting in line to buy the new Jordan shoes left disappointed.

In Seattle, police used pepper spray to break up fights between customers.

"Police showed up ... somebody went in the side door and pushed through the front door and lost our place in line and we're at the back of the line," one shopper said.

"We were in the front of the line, then we got bombarded in and now we don't have any," said another shopper, who came out of the store empty-handed.

In Atlanta, at least four people were arrested in a mob scene at a suburban mall, according to The Associated Press. Twenty police cars responded and the crowd broke down a door to enter the mall before it opened.

Police had to smash the windows of a car to get two toddlers out after a woman had left them there while she went to buy the shoes. She was taken into custody when she returned, according to the AP.

Florida police used pepper spray on unruly shoe seekers and fights were reported in Kentucky; glass was shattered at stores in North Carolina.

"People started getting restless, so they cracked open the doors and next thing you know people started getting trampled and bum-rushed -- the doors fell on some girls' heads and ... it was horrible, it was real bad," said a man in Charlotte, N.C.

"We are extremely concerned to hear of the reported crowd incidents around the launch of the Air Jordan 11's," Nike said in a statement to ABC News.

Sneaker designer Ronnie Fieg says unfortunately he's not surprised at the violence.

"That's usually what happens when demand exceeds the supply," he said. "The kids wait for them and wait for them and when you line up, and the kids get impatient, the younger kids, some of them don't really respect the line-ups and it gets rowdy."

Fieg said Air Jordans have always caused this kind of hysteria.

"Back then it was a revolutionary sneaker, because people would wear them to church, or to prom, because it kind of had that tuxedo look, so it really changed the game back in the day and Jordan won the championship in them, I think he was wearing the black and red version when he did," Fieg said.

Within hours of the release of the new design, hundreds of pairs of the shoes were on sale on eBay, some for more than $500. Many of the pairs already had dozens of bidders.

"Tinker made it shine. Mike made it fly. You made it iconic," Nike said in a statement. "Jordan 11s only come around once a year, so don't miss this highly anticipated release."

The shoes were widely released and are available at stores such as Foot Locker and Champs, in addition to Nike stores.

Air Jordans bring in an estimated $1 billion for Nike every year.