Police Suspect Social Media in Mall Violence in at Least 9 States
Some disturbances turned throngs of shoppers into spectators.
— -- Social media may have contributed to a series of possibly related incidents in which groups of people, many of them teens, fought and created disturbances at shopping malls in at least nine states, according to authorities.
The disturbances erupted in malls from Arizona to North Carolina and drew hundreds of spectators in some cases, causing several malls to be closed.
Seven people were arrested Monday after an incident at the Shoppes at Buckland Hills in Manchester, Connecticut, according to police. The Manchester Police Department estimated that several hundred teenagers were on the scene at the time and said officers from other jurisdictions were called in to help control the situation. One officer suffered minor injuries while trying to break up a fight, and no other injuries were reported, the department said.
The department suggested that the incidents may have stemmed from a series of social media posts, echoing sentiments expressed by other police departments where fighting took place.
A mall outside Cleveland was placed on lockdown after a large group of teens caused a disturbance at around 6:30 p.m. Monday, police said.
Beachwood, Ohio, police announced earlier this morning that the fighting was "loosely organized on social media." A juvenile was arrested there for alleged disorderly conduct after officers dispersed the crowd and removed them from the Beachwood Place mall. No major injuries were reported.
In Aurora, Illinois, several fights broke out Monday night at the Fox Valley mall, a suburb of Chicago, causing police to evacuate the premises.
Mallgoers captured the chaotic moments on their cellphones 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 Police Department said this morning that it was 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."
Aurora police said the department "made the immediate decision to evacuate and close the mall for the safety of all," adding that more than 1,000 patrons gathered in the common area to watch the commotion. Seven people were arrested after 75 officers from multiple police agencies arrived to assist.
Police there are working to determine what caused the fights, telling ABC News they are looking into social media to see whether the incident may have been planned.
The Town Center mall in Aurora, Colorado, a suburb of Denver, was also closed Monday after a series of skirmishes and a large disturbance that officials believe began on social media.
Police there 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.
Aurora police say the unruly crowd surrounded an off-duty officer as he detained one of the alleged combatants and attempted to escort the person 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," the police department 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 told ABC News they are investigating whether the disturbance was linked to social media postings.
4 Other States
The Associated Press reported similar incidents at malls in New York and New Jersey and in 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 after fights at two malls there. No one was injured, and no gunshots were fired, despite reports indicating otherwise, according to the AP.