Mall-goers terrified after fights break out at Independence Cent - Live5News.com | Charleston, SC | News, Weather, Sports


Mall-goers terrified after fights break out at Independence Center Mall

"Empty. #IndependenceCenter cleared out. Police say no arrests, no injuries and nothing broken." @JoshReporting about 10:30 p.m. "Empty. #IndependenceCenter cleared out. Police say no arrests, no injuries and nothing broken." @JoshReporting about 10:30 p.m.
Independence Center Mall was relatively quiet the day after the disturbance. (DeAnn Smith/KCTV) Independence Center Mall was relatively quiet the day after the disturbance. (DeAnn Smith/KCTV)

Multiple police agencies safely dispersed a crowd after a large disturbance involving hundreds of teens at Independence Center Mall on Friday night.

The incident began shortly before 9 p.m. and police got everything under control and cleared the scene just after 10 p.m.

Multiple people caught the fights on their cell phones and posted the videos to social media.

More than 100 officers from Independence police, Kansas City police, the Missouri Highway Patrol and the Jackson County Sheriff's office all responded.

Police said a large group of unruly kids were being disruptive and began fighting inside the shopping center and then moved out to the parking lot.

“We were about to go shopping to Best Buy and as soon as we were about to come, the cages just came down on the doors. I guess there was some kid. The cops came in and gathered him up. There was a group of people. One of them punched someone in the face and so the cop yelled 'Stop!' And so the kid started running away from the cops and the cop went and tackled him,” witness Victor Gutsman said.

A mother who didn't want to use her name for fear of the safety of her teenage children, also got caught in the middle of the melee.

“Around 7 p.m. it started getting a little rowdy. The vibe of the environment started to change," she said.

The woman said she brought her two teenagers to the mall after her daughter got a message on social media to show up. The mother believes the fights were no accident.

"It's like they come with a purpose. They knew what they were doing. They knew they was going to be a fight," she said. "I didn't know if there was a fight or rioting or what was going on."

Lauren Kahananui has worked at Auntie Anne's in the mall for two months. She said the brawl scared mall-goers, but she added that security did a great job of restoring order.

"A whole bunch of cops and security guards were escorting a huge group of 50 to 100 people out of the mall," she said.

The mother agrees that officials who showed up did a good job.

"Basically the officers here did very great," she said.

Police are still looking into what caused the fight, but did say it involved about 300 to 400 kids.

“I know the officers are still trying to piece things together to see what happened so we can look ahead and make sure that it doesn't happen again,” said Officer Tom Gentry with the Independence Police Department.

Police reported no damage, no injuries and no arrests. Via Twitter, police said, "Contrary to other reports, there was no looting or protests."

Independence Center and Independence Commons was shut down during the disturbance. Independence Center reopened as usual at 10 a.m. Saturday. No significant issues were reported Saturday, and shoppers went about their business as usual Saturday afternoon.

They and other area malls say they don't allow criminal activity on their grounds and work to keep their customers safe.

“There was a minor isolated incident involving disruptive teens that resulted in no injuries due to the quick response by our security team along with the Independence Police Department. We maintain a zero tolerance policy for all criminal activity as we strive to maintain the best possible shopping experience for all visitors,” wrote Angela Pyszczynski, general manager at Independence Center.

“The safety and comfort of our shoppers, employees and tenants is our top priority. Mall security is a 24/7 365-day program inside and outside the property. We will continue to work with local police department to ensure our standards are maintained. We cannot release any other specifics about security as it would compromise our program,” wrote Sean Phillips, regional marketing director of CBL Malls, which owns Oak Park Mall.

A safety expert says the recent violence should serve as a reminder to people to be aware of their surroundings. Retired Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Michael Tabman said he believes mall security and police did a good job responding quickly to the brawl and ending it peacefully, which he says is always the goal.

He said shoppers shouldn't feel scared about coming to malls but, like everywhere else they visit, they need to make sure they're thinking about their safety.

“We talk about a mall shooting, a terrorist attack, or any kind of violent incident, the best way to avoid trouble is to get out,” Tabman said. “Be vigilante without being paranoid. Know your surroundings, watch what's going on around you and always know where the exit is.”

Other malls and tourist destinations around the country also had to deal with large groups of people fighting Friday.

At Monroeville Mall in Monroeville, PA, a huge fight broke out inside the suburban mall and it had to be shut down early.

Police say as many as 50 people may have been involved.

Violence at Arden Fair Mall in Sacramento, CA, forced it to also close early. Police say a “separate skirmished” between teenagers broke out across the shopping center. A similar incident happened on the same day in 2012.

Kids ran through the mall knocking over signs, which sounded so much like gunshots that the mall was put on a temporary lockdown.

In Chicago, IL, police responded to a disturbance at Navy Pier where about 30 people were fighting.

Police had to close the pier early, letting no one in after 9 p.m. The Chicago Tribune reports that five people were arrested and one person was injured. In Nashville, similar issues occurred at a popular mall there while a Pennsylvania mall also reported issues.

Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

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