Americans brought more than just unwanted gifts to the mall on Monday. They carried anger.
A series of apparently unconnected fights and disturbances broke out at malls across the country on the day after Christmas — known as "Boxing Day" in many British Commonwealth countries, for reasons unrelated to fisticuffs — 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 fight on Monday night led responding police officers to pepper spray a large crowd, Cleveland.com reported.
"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.
Mall mayhem: Fights break out at across the US
|© Jim Weber/The Commercial Appeal via AP Police officers continue to patrol the area as people linger in the parking lots around Oak Court Mall after the mall was closed due to a disturbance Monday, Dec. 26, 2016, in Memphis, Tenn.|
Some of the mayhem was captured on social media. The chaos prevented some shoppers from grabbing clothes off clearance racks and returning gifts.
The mall incidents, which ranged from minor melees to mass evacuations, occurred from Colorado to Tennessee and Texas to New Jersey.
Police in some cities are investigating the role social media may have played in organizing the disturbances. The motive behind the mall brawls is not yet known.
Here's what happened at nine of those malls.
It all started with a social media post that promised a fight at the Town Center at Aurora.
Aurora Police Department spokesman Sgt. Chris Amsler said about 100 people had gathered in the food court before the brawls broke out -- prompting the Colorado mall to close early on Monday afternoon..
"(It) kind of morphed into this large disturbance," Amsler said.
When off-duty police officers working as security guards tried to break up a fight, people circled the officers, who called for backup, Amsler said.
As police officers on duty arrived, fights broke out throughout the mall, at a movie theater and at a nearby park-and-ride lot, he said.
He estimated 500 people were involved. Authorities arrested five people, all juveniles, and recovered no weapons, he said. One person assaulted at the park-and-ride lot suffered "significant" injuries and was taken to a hospital, Amsler said.
In Aurora, Illinois, eight juveniles, ranging in age from 13 to 17, have been charged in connection with the large disturbances at Fox Valley Mall, police said in a statement released Tuesday. The teens were taking into custody Monday evening after police received a call for assistance at the shopping center"due to an unruly crowd in the common area," police said.
"All of the charges lodged are misdemeanors, however, police are not ruling out enhancing them to felonies," the statement said. More arrests are possible, police said.
Moments after the call, a fight broke out in the food court area and those were followed by several other smaller altercations, the Aurora police said.
The brawl forced evacuations and the mall closed. No injuries were reported in the incident.
In Memphis, seven people were arrested after incidents at two malls, CNN affiliate WMCA reported.
Police said a group started a disturbance in the Wolfchase Galleria food court and started running, which prompted some customers to call 911, WMCA said.
Then a crowd gathered outside Oak Court Mall, about 10 miles west, and started a disturbance, WMCA said. Both malls were cleared and closed early for the night.
Shots were reported in both incidents, but police said they found no evidence of gunfire, WMCA said.
No injuries were reported, CNN affiliate WATN said.
Loud sounds kicked off a wave of panic at Hamilton Place Mall, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Several people were pushed to the ground as shoppers rushed to exit the mall, police said.
Officers rushed to the scene after receiving reports of "shots fired," but the sounds turned out to be fireworks.
"Our investigation concluded that it was perpetrated a group of individuals who were setting off fireworks, possibly to coverup the actions of a shoplifting crime," the Chattanooga Police Department said in a statement.
Minor injuries were reported after the incident.
Police have descriptions of the suspects involved in this incident and video footage, the statement said.
Fayetteville, North Carolina
In Fayetteville, North Carolina, people panicked after teenagers fought in the food court, Fayetteville police spokesman Shawn Strepay told CNN affiliate WRAL. No shots were fired, despite reports of gunfire, Strepay said.
"Once people start running in that area or chairs are getting knocked over, tables, that sort of thing, that echoes and it could resemble the sound of a gunshot to a lot of people," he said.
Elizabeth, New Jersey
The first calls from the The Mills at Jersey Gardens came in just after nightfall Monday. Witnesses said they thought they had heard shots fired. That, along with a fight, led to what Elizabeth police Officer Greg Jones described as a "chaotic panic and everybody running all at once."
Ultimately, though, patrons had mistaken the sound of a chair slammed during a fight for gunfire, city officials told CNN affiliate News 12 New Jersey. Two people, an 8-year-old and 12-year-old, were injured, the station reported.
Amateur video taken from inside Buckland Hills Mall, in Manchester, Connecticut, shows people screaming as punches were being thrown inside the shops on the day after Christmas.
"It was estimated that there were several hundred teenagers inside the mall and several other fights broke out around the same time," the Manchester Police Department said in a statement.
No weapons were involved, but one Manchester police officer was assaulted while trying to break up a first fight, police said. The officer did not sustain any significant injuries.
Fort Worth, Texas
The security guards had no other choice but to place the Hulen Mall on lockdown. At one point, police told CNN affiliate KTVT, at least 100 people were involved in a series of fights.
Fort Worth Police spokeswoman Tamara Velle said officers initially responded to reported gunfire inside the mall. After breaking up the fights, officers stopped by each store to let people leave while the lockdown remained in effect, KTVT reported.
There were no reported injures or property damage -- thanks in large part to local police, Kelle said.
"You keep hearing the horror stories of the mall shootings across the nations right now," Velle told KTVT. "Anytime we're hearing about a mall shooting and it's the day after Christmas, (where) you have tons of people holiday shopping ... we're going to get in there as fast as we can."
Shortly after sunset, a large-scale disturbance broke out at Beachwood Place Mall, in Beachwood, Ohio.
An initial report of gunfire was quickly found to be false by police.
"One male juvenile was arrested for attempting to strike an officer that was dealing with another disorderly patron," Beachwood police said in a statement.
Beachwood police, officers from nearby jurisdictions and mall security were able to disperse the juveniles and remove them from the mall, police said in a statement. Beachwood Police Capt. Gary Haba told CNN that pepper spray was used to disperse a large crowd at one point.
The disturbance appears "to have been loosely organized on social media," the statement said.
Beachwood mall was re-opened and there were no injuries or other arrests.
Mall fights break out across U.S.
Police are investigating a string of fights in malls across the country during on of the busiest shopping days of the year. There were reports of fights in more than a dozen cities Monday, from Elizabeth, New Jersey, to Fort Worth, Texas.