The mayhem that has rippled through malls in more than a dozen states continued Tuesday evening, when about 200 rowdy teenagers showed up en masse at a Philadelphia mall in a gathering planned on Snapchat, officials said.
Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Scott Small told ABC affiliate WPVI that police responded to a report of a disturbance at the Philadelphia Mills Mall at about 6:45 p.m. The large group arrived by bus, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, but only about 30 or 40 were able to get inside.
“They went to the food court area and that’s when they started running around, yelling and screaming and acting disorderly,” Small told WPVI.
At least three teenage boys were arrested. This is the second time that a group of juveniles caused a disturbance at the same Philadelphia mall, according to the Inquirer.
Post-Christmas brawls swept around the country and sent shoppers scrambling toward the exits Monday. Much like the most recent Philadelphia incident, almost all were started by juveniles. Many were scuffles that began at food courts. A few involved false reports of gunshots, while others appear to have been planned on social media. In some cases, social media videos documented the ensuing mass hysteria. In others, lockdowns, injuries and arrests were reported.
The seemingly similar incidents, which took place at about a dozen malls sometime between Monday afternoon and evening, left local law enforcement officials investigating what caused the fights and whether they were somehow connected.
“At this time, we don’t know,” Sgt. Chris Amsler, spokesman for the Aurora Police Department in Aurora, Colorado, told reporters. “At this time, we don’t think it’s related. We just think it’s a coincidence.”
Amsler said a small fight began at the food court of the Town Center Aurora, located outside of Denver, at about 4:45 p.m. Monday and multiplied into dozens of skirmishes throughout the mall. All told, police believe about 500 people were involved. Five juveniles were arrested for charges, such as disorderly conduct, obstruction and resisting arrest.
When police tried to break up the fight in the food court, a large crowd began surrounding the officers, prompting officials to call every on-duty officer in the city for backup, according to the police department.
In Manchester, Connecticut, seven people, including 20-year-old Raekwon Gaines and 19-year-old Solomon Wilson-Frame, were arrested after a disturbance at The Shoppes at Buckland Hills that involved up to 10 teenagers, NBC Connecticut reported. The others who were arrested were ages 14 to 16.
A similar incident happened at about 6:30 p.m. at a mall in Beachwood, Ohio, about 20 miles outside of Cleveland. At least one juvenile in custody is suspected of assaulting a police officer, cleveland.com reported.
A Twitter video, now retweeted more than 3,500 times, shows a stampede inside the mall as shoppers race toward the exit. The tweet says there was a shooting inside, but police have determined that reports of shots fired were unfounded.
Similar false reports of gunshots also were reported at malls in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Elizabeth, New Jersey.
NBC affiliate WRCB TV reported that a group of teenagers set off fireworks to distract from a shoplifting incident at Hamilton Place in Chattanooga.
Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage said on Twitter that someone screamed “gun” after a chair was slammed, causing people to panic at The Mills at Jersey Gardens in Elizabeth. Police in tactical gears showed up. Eight to 10 people, including an 8-year-old and a 12-year-old, had minor injuries.
Similar incidents were reported at malls in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Indianapolis, Tempe, Arizona, Aurora, Illinois, East Garden City, New York, Memphis, Fort Worth, and Monroeville, Pennsylvania.
A Fort Worth Police spokeswoman says between 100 and 150 teens were involved in multiple fights at the Hulen Mall in Fort Worth on the evening of Dec. 26.
Spokeswoman Tamara Valle says several juveniles told officers the incident Monday evening was organized on social media. Several other large-scale mall fights occurred nationwide Monday.
Valle says officers initially responded to a report of gunshots fired in the Hulen Mall parking lot. When they couldn’t find a suspect, the officers entered the mall and were notified of a fight in the food court.
About 20 to 30 teens were involved in the food court fight, but soon other fights erupted around the mall.
Valle says about 60 officers responded.
Hulen mall security issued a “shelter in place” warning. There were no reports of injuries or property damage.
The disturbances have prompted some mall operators to heighten an already beefed-up security because of the holiday season. Simon Property Group, which owns the Mills at Jersey Garden in Elizabeth, launched its own investigation, according to the Wall Street Journal. The International Council of Shopping Centers also told the paper that mall operators are cooperating with law enforcement.
It’s unclear how or why the fights started, but some local law enforcement officials, like the ones in Philadelphia, point to social media.
Amsler, of the Aurora Police Department, said some type of announcement was made on social media, though he couldn’t say what it specifically said.
“There was something going on on social media about a fight that was going to take place here, which is what drew all of these people who were up to no good to our mall,” Amsler told reporters.
Police in Beachwood, Ohio, also said that the brawl there appear to have been “loosely organized on social media,” the Associated Press reported.
Investigations of the incidents, none of which resulted in life-threatening injuries, are continuing.
This year isn’t the first time that violent mall disturbances were reported the day after Christmas, when malls are crowded with shoppers taking advantage of post-holiday sales.
In 2014, a fight among teenage girls in the same mall in Beachwood, Ohio, resulted in one arrest, cleveland.com reported. Multiple fights in a mall in Pittsburgh resulted in at least two arrests, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
Last year, a massive, chain-reaction brawl involving up to 2,000 people erupted in a mall in Kentucky, NBC News reported. A mall in a suburb outside of Chicago was shut down after several fights broke out among big crowds, ABC affiliate WLS reported.
Incidentally, the day after Christmas is a holiday known as Boxing Day in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. – This report contains material from the Associated Press.