Po­lice ar­rest 5 in mall melee

The Aurora cen­ter reopens the day af­ter hun­dreds of teenagers skir­mish.

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST - By John Aguilar and Kirk Mitchell

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.

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