A series of apparently unconnected fights and disturbances broke out at malls across the country the day after Christmas, leaving shoppers desperate for an exit and authorities struggling to wrangle unruly crowds.
Several arrests and multiple injuries were reported — including an assault on an officer — and authorities and witnesses described panic-stricken scenes from Aurora, Colo. to East Garden City, N.Y.
In Manchester, Conn., police said what began as an unspecified “disturbance” among 10 teenagers on Monday afternoon quickly escalated as multiple fights broke out simultaneously, NBC Connecticut reported.
A video posted to Facebook shows a mass of people at the Shoppes at Buckland Hills throwing wild punches, then fleeing with authorities and a large crowd giving chase.
“Never go to the mall right after Christmas,” the accompanying post says.
A police officer was assaulted while trying to break up the fight, NBC Connecticut reported, and several people were arrested, though they had not been identified.
In Colorado, the Town Center at Aurora was shuttered and evacuated on Monday afternoon after the Aurora Police Department reported “multiple skirmishes” and “a large disturbance” inside the mall.
Video obtained by NBC affiliate KUSA shows a crowd gathered outside the mall and several police officers trying to control it. Two people who appeared to be handcuffed can be seen lying on the ground. Someone can be heard saying “she is dragging her by her hair,” though it’s unclear who is being referred to. Moments later, someone else screams: “I can’t breathe.”
The department said in a Twitter post that no officers or customers were injured.
In Beachwood, Ohio, a mall outside Cleveland was closed after a “large-scale disturbance” among “sizable groups of juveniles” was reported, local police said in a statement. They added that the incident “appears to have been loosely organized on social media.”
Cleveland.com reported that responding police officers disbursed the crowd with pepper spray.
“My whole body burned,” a witness, 19-year-old John Boyd, told the site.
In Chattanooga, Tenn., and Elizabeth, N.J., there were reports of gunshots on Monday afternoon. At Hamilton Place, in Tennessee, that gunfire turned out to be a cover-up attempt, NBC affiliate WRCB reported: teenagers threw firecrackers to divert attention from a shoplifting incident.
The teens were still at large, though they were seen on surveillance footage, a police spokesman told the station. Several customers were injured in the crush of people trying to flee the mall.
In Elizabeth, Mayor Chris Bollowage said someone shouted “gun” after a chair was slammed at the Mills.
“People began to panic,” he said in a post on Twitter.
A witness described the scene on Instagram as “mass hysteria,” and an accompanying video showed police officers in tactical gear marching through the mall’s food court.
Bollwage said that eight to 10 people were injured in the ensuing chaos. They were treated at the scene and transferred to local hospitals for additional evaluations, he said.
Meanwhile in Fayetteville, N.C., a mall was evacuated after a fight on Monday afternoon, though no injuries were reported, according to the Associated Press, and in East Garden City, N.Y., a security officer at Roosevelt Field Mall told NBC News on Monday night that a “small fight … caused a wave of panic.”
No injuries were reported and the mall remained open.