Food court fight in Aurora mall escalates into “multiple skirmishes,” evacuation

Police in a Denver suburb evacuated a mall due to multiple skirmishes.

It started with a fight in the food court. It ended with the evacuation Monday of the Town Center at Aurora mall and the arrest of five teenagers on suspicion of disorderly conduct, obstruction and resisting arrest.

The fracas seems to have been just one of numerous such disturbances around the country Monday, though it’s not clear how or whether they’re related.

USA Today reported that there were “melees and disturbances” involving teenagers that led to malls being evacuated in Elizabeth, N.J.; Fayetteville, N.C.; East Garden City, N.Y.; Tempe, Ariz.; Beachwood Place, a suburb of Cleveland; and Memphis, in addition to the incident in Aurora.

Aurora police said the incident started around 4:45 p.m. when an off-duty officer came across a fight in the food court and tried to arrest one of the teenagers involved. The officer was “surrounded by an unruly crowd” that advanced on the officer as he tried to escort the teenager he had arrested out of the mall, police said, and several other fights broke out in the crowd.

The crowd eventually grew in size to roughly 500 people. Police put out a citywide call for help, and all available units responded to the mall, as well as officers from the Denver Police Department and the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Department.

Police and mall management decided to shut down the mall. During this time, fights also broke out in the parking lots of Century Theatre and the RTD Centrepoint Station, police said.

One male who was assaulted and one teenager who was arrested suffered minor injuries, police said.

Aurora police Sgt. Chris Amsler said people at the mall told police that a post on social media said there would be a fight at the mall today, but investigators haven’t tracked down the actual post. Investigators also aren’t sure if there are any underlying rivalries at play.

Amsler said police aren’t sure if there is a connection with the other mall fights.

“We’ve been so busy dealing with our own incident that we haven’t had time to figure out what’s going on elsewhere,” he said.

The day after Christmas, of course, is generally one where malls are crowded with people shopping, making returns and getting out of the house after the holidays.

The mall posted on its own Twitter account that the building will reopen to customers at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

The Aurora Sentinel shared this witness video from Twitter.

The Aurora Sentinel also has this history:

In August, a man was shot in the mall parking lot, in what police said was an isolated incident. A shooting in the same parking lot in March left a 25-year-old man wounded. Sabadu Colbert-Evans, 25, was arrested in connection with that case and later charged with second-degree attempted murder.

A 19-year-old woman was shot inside the mall in 2005 while attempting to break up a fight. For years, the mall had struggled off and on with allegations that it was frequented by gangs, and that it subsequently harassed black patrons, making it a target for local activists and periodic protests.

A Denver TV station recorded a mall employee in 2004 saying that the mall was being remodeled in order to bring in more white customers and fewer young black ones. Mall owners denied the employee’s claim and fired him.

 

Erica Meltzer

Author: Erica Meltzer

Erica Meltzer covers government and politics. She's worked for newspapers in Colorado, Arizona and Illinois and once won a First Amendment Award by showing up in the wrong place at the wrong time. She served in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and can swear fluently in Guarani. She gets emotional about public libraries. Contact Erica Meltzer at 303-502-2802, emeltzer@denverite.com or @meltzere.