Police arrest 5 in mall melee
The Aurora center reopens the day after hundreds of teenagers skirmish.
aurora »Police are investigating the possibility that a melee at the Aurora mall involving about 500 people in which four girls and one boy were arrested was orchestrated by juveniles on social media.
Despite the large disturbance involving a series of “skirmishes” Monday afternoon that led authorities to shut down the mall several hours early, the Town Center at Aurora mall opened on schedule at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Those arrested — ranging in age from 13 to 16 — included three juveniles who confronted police, including a 15-year-old boy accused of taking a swing at a police officer, Aurora police spokesman Chris Amsler said Tuesday.
In some instances, police concerned about their safety did not try to arrest juveniles involved in fights after they fled into the crowd, Amsler said. About 50 officers from Aurora, Denver and Arapahoe County responded, and even with those numbers they felt they were in danger, he said. He said most of the instigators of the melee were teens.
“They were not there to shop obviously. They were there to cause trouble,” Amsler said Tuesday. “It is a little disturbing that kids would do this when they knew police are there patrolling the mall.”
Julian Estrada, who was manning two mall kiosks Tuesday morning selling belts and virtual reality goggles, said things felt “eerie” inside the mall when he showed up for his shift Monday afternoon. He said crowds of people were “lingering” behind him and not one came by to try out the high-tech eyewear he was selling, as is normally the case.
“I remember a lot of people everywhere,” Estrada said. “Then I saw security running by frantically.”
It wasn’t long before police decided to shut down the mall, which sits next to the cinema where nearly 4K years ago a gunman shot and killed 12 people and injured 70 during a midnight movie.
“Everyone was shutting their gates, and my boss told me he had gotten a call from security to shut down,” Estrada said.
Police received an anonymous tip that a series of confrontations that broke out at 4:45 p.m. Monday in the food court was instigated by a massive social media push.
“I’ve seen the power of social media. We’ve sent out messages that were retweeted in a few minutes by hundreds and thousands of people,” Amsler said. “We are looking at whether this was gangrelated.”
At the beginning of the distur-
bance, a uniformed off-duty Aurora police officer saw a 13-year-old girl in a fistfight with another girl in the food court. As the officer approached to break up the fight, one of the girls took off, Amsler said.
When the officer approached the 13-year-old girl to arrest her, she swore at him and warned him not to touch her, Amsler said. The officer arrested the girl, but he was immediately confronted by others who were yelling at him, including the teen’s 16-year-old sister, who got in the officer’s face and yelled “keep your (expletive) hands off of her!” Amsler said.
“She formed a fighting stance with the officer. Believing she was about to hit him, he grabbed her arm to control her,” Amsler said. The girl wrestled with the officer, who then pulled out a Taser. At that point, the girl surrendered, Amsler said.
The officer handcuffed both girls. The 13-year-old was charged with disorderly conduct for fighting and failure to obey a lawful order by police, Amsler said, and the girl’s sister was charged with obstructing a police officer.
While the officer was escorting the girls outside, a 14-year-old girl tried to push her way between the officer and the girls.
“Initially he was by himself,” Amsler said.
As other officers arrived, police arrested the 14-yearold girl on an obstruction charge, he said. A 15-yearold boy stepped in and threw a punch at one of the officers, Amsler said. The officer subdued the teen and arrested him, he said.
Other skirmishes broke out in the food court and in the parking lot just outside the food court. Police arrested a 15-year-old girl in connection to another fistfight, Amsler said. She was charged with disorderly conduct and failure to obey a lawful order.
Amir Samad, who was selling 3-D posters from a kiosk in the food court, recalled seeing a wave of police sweeping past him before they ended up in a loud scrum in front of Cinnabon.
“Suddenly, police officers ran through and they went to the other side of the mall,” he said.
Nathaniel Burns, emerging from a T-Mobile store inside the mall Tuesday morning, said he saw a bunch of “push and shove” matches break out between people Monday afternoon. After firing off a few pictures of the commotion for his Snapchat account, he departed the mall with the intention of getting his shopping done the following day.
“That stuff was bananas — why would you want to get wrapped up in that (stuff )?” he said.
Amsler said a crowd of hundreds had the officers surrounded at one point. In the interest of their safety, they ordered the crowd to disband and closed the mall at about 5:15 p.m. It wasn’t until 6 p.m. that they had the mall secured, he said.
One boy was beaten at the RTD station just east of the mall. The boy had a seizure and was taken to a hospital for treatment, Amsler said.
“We believe he was part of the large crowd,” Amsler said. No one was arrested in connection to his assault, he said, and his condition is unknown.
Amsler called the incident an unusual event.
“We’re being extra vigilant,” he added. “We believe the mall is a safe place.”
“Town Center at Aurora’s top priority is the safety of our shoppers, retailers and employees,” mall general manager Don Cloutier said in a statement Tuesday. He thanked the police and sheriff departments, as well as the mall security team, for “their quick response in handling this isolated incident with no reported injuries.”
On Tuesday morning, it was as if nothing had ever happened inside the facility, which sits at the southeast corner of Alameda Parkway and Interstate 225. A smattering of shoppers moved in and out of stores, while a lonely saleswoman at the Verizon mobile phone shop stared out into the main hallway from her empty store.
Calming music could be heard wafting throughout the mall while a security officer did his rounds, checking in with individual shopkeepers.
Things seemed safe enough that Megan O’Malley, of Denver, decided to try again on Tuesday to buy some shoes from Foot Locker that she failed to get Monday night due to the mall’s closure. She said she saw on the news that the incident at the mall appeared to be limited to teens with too much time on their hands.
“When I saw it was juveniles, I thought it was fine,” she said. “I figured I’d come back today because it would be less crowded after what happened.”
There were similar disturbances at malls in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Ohio.
Police do not have evidence that the incidents were connected, but rumors were circulating on social media earlier Monday that there would be a fight at the mall, Amsler said.