By NIRAJ CHOKSHI DEC. 27, 2016, New York Times; see also.
Chaos struck at least 15 malls across the country on Monday as fights broke out and false reports of gunfire spread rapidly on social media.
The disturbances — many caused by feuding teenagers, according to local authorities — disrupted post-Christmas shopping in cities in at least a dozen states. In Elizabeth, N.J., panic broke out at the Mills at Jersey Gardens when a person shouted “gun” in response to a chair being slammed after a fight, according to a Twitter post by Mayor J. Christian Bollwage.
At the Cross Creek Mall food court in Fayetteville, N.C., a group of teenagers scuffled around 4:45 p.m., resulting in that mall’s closing, the Fayetteville Police Department said in a statement. Despite receiving several 911 calls about gunshots, the police could not confirm that any were fired inside or outside the mall.
In Chattanooga, Tenn., around the same time, 20 fireworks were set off at the Hamilton Place mall, the mall said on Twitter.
Fights broke out at two Memphis malls, according to local reports. One led to the closing of the Oak Court Mall, and another, at the nearby Wolfchase Galleria, resulted in several 911 calls about shots fired, The Commercial Appeal reported. “Somebody yelled ‘Gun!’ and youths stampeded through the mall,” Deputy Chief Terry Landrum of the Memphis Police Department told the paper about the episode at the Wolfchase Galleria, noting the similarity to the melee at Oak Court.
Like authorities elsewhere, he could not say whether there were any connections between the chaotic episodes across the country.
The police in Aurora, Colo., said they did not think a disturbance that forced the closing of Town Center at Aurora was related to another episode about a thousand miles away at the Fox Valley Mall in Aurora, Ill.
As in Fayetteville, the chaos at Town Center at Aurora began with a food court fight at 4:45 p.m., the police said in a statement. Several other fights broke out with the crowd growing to about 500 people, they said. No serious injuries were reported, and five juveniles were arrested.
The police in Tempe, Ariz., dispelled claims of gunfire after a similar outbreak at the Arizona Mills mall.
And as in many cities, the police in Indianapolis arrested several juveniles, after fights at the Castleton Square Mall.
Similar episodes resulted in panic and, in some cases, evacuations or closings at malls in several other states, according to local reports and local authorities. They include the Shoppes at Buckland Hills and Westfarms in Connecticut; Roosevelt Field in New York; Beachwood Place in Ohio; Monroeville Mall in Pennsylvania; and Hulen Mall in Texas.
The police in Beachwood, Ohio, said on Twitter that the disturbance there appeared to “have been organized on social media.”
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