The holiday season may be coming to an end, but the shopping frenzies over the past month remind us that a crowd mentality can sometimes take over and cause good people do to uncharacteristically bad things.
Many Waukesha residents have made the trek to Minnesota at some point to visit the Mall of America. Some may have even gone this season. But consider yourself lucky if you were not there on the day after Christmas, which is considered the second busiest shopping day of the year. According to news reports, a large crowd of young people erupted into incidents of violence and perhaps theft.
A mall spokeswoman said that the disturbance began in the late afternoon with a fight in one of the mall's food courts. This fight quickly spread throughout the rest of the facility.
Mall security and local police worked together to restore order, and it reportedly took more than an hour to do so. Witnesses and officials estimate that more than 200 individuals were involved in the chaos.
At least 10 young adults and juveniles were arrested for suspicion of disorderly conduct.
There were apparently no official police reports of stolen merchandise, but many witnesses said they saw what appeared to be theft. A 15-year-old girl said that she "saw a massive group of people [on the first floor]. It looked like they were trying to pull people's stuff out of their bags."
Even after order was restored, police continued to monitor bus lines leaving the mall. Another adult and four juveniles were later arrested at a bus stop in St. Paul, Minnesota. Police suspected they had also exhibited behavior which could be characterized as disorderly conduct.
Although there may have been hundreds of individuals involved in this chaotic scene, only a handful of individuals were caught by police. Hopefully, a qualified criminal defense attorney will make sure they are treated fairly and that they are not held solely responsible for the actions of others who got away.
Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune, "Moving melee causes chaos at packed Mall of America," David Chanen and Suzanne Ziegler, Dec. 27, 2011