CORDOVA, TN Dec 28 2016
Large disturbances at two Memphis malls caused shoppers to flee and resulted in the malls closing early.
The disturbances started at Wolfchase Galleria Monday night.
Memphis Police Department was on high alert after threats were posted on social media regarding a possible shootout that would happen at the mall.
Some teens were reported to be outside throwing up gang signs and were asked to leave the area by police. Memphis police said seven people under 18 years old were arrested at Wolfchase after police asked them to leave. The juveniles were arrested after failing to obey officers when the officers told them to leave.
Memphis police said all of the teens were between 13 and 17 years old. No one was injured.
"We were inside Lids. Right outside of Lids when this started happening," shoppers Brian Oliver and Tyler Littman said. "When it started happening, we ran inside. We heard loud sounds behind us and there was a stampede of kids coming our way, a bunch of people running."
Police were seen asking people in the parking lot if they had a ride and were trying to get the situation under control.
Stores inside the mall locked their doors, trapping shoppers inside in order to protect them from the chaos happening inside the mall.
"I saw everyone running. I saw everyone in the store getting down, so I got down too," shoppers Kaylie and Hannah Dunn said. "I found her, so they put us down in the back of the store. They started running and they started locking people up in the store."
According to police, a large group of people started a disturbance at approximately 6:36 p.m. inside the mall near the food court. They started running through the mall, which prompted some customers to start calling 911, reporting shots fired.
Police said there were several officers already on the scene, and those officers said there were no shots fired and no injuries have been reported.
The parking lot at Wolfchase has been cleared of multiple unruly juveniles and adults. Wolfchase closed early Monday due to the disturbance.
After police were able to get the scene clear and under control at Wolfchase Galleria, a large crowd gathered inside Oak Court Mall 45 minutes later. Memphis police cleared the area.
Memphis Police Department said several people at the Oak Court Mall started a disturbance at approximately 7:12 p.m. Officers on the scene at the time said citizens called 911 and reported shots fired, but officers said there were no shots fired. No injuries have been reported.
Memphis Police Department said they received reports of teenagers running through the mall.
"Started with the fire alarm going off and after that, people just started running around," Oak Court shopper Jackie Moses said. "Another policeman came. He had a gun, saying, 'the mall is closed; everybody needs to get out.'"
All of the teenagers were brought to the parking lot where they were told to wait for their rides.
Police said a woman, later identified as 33-year-old Vunchatta Holcomb, "tapped an officer" with her car when that officer told her to leave the area. She was arrested at Oak Court Mall and charged with aggravated assault, trespassing, disorderly conduct, and obedience to a traffic officer.
A 14-year-old was also detained near a nearby Wendy's after he didn't obey police. He was later released to his parents.
Oak Court Mall security closed the mall early for the night.
Police confirmed the disturbances were the direct result of the social media posts from earlier Monday that was threatening violence at the Wolfchase Galleria.
The post circulating around social media threatened that a shootout would happen at Wolfchase Galleria. That threat prompted extra security at Wolfchase and Oak Court Mall.
Oak Court Mall released the following statement Tuesday:
"Oak Court Mall's top priority is the safety of our shoppers, retailers and employees. We applaud Memphis Police Department and our security team for their quick response in handling this minor disturbance with no reported injuries."
Wolfchase Galleria later released the following statement:
“To ensure a secure shopping environment, Memphis PD disbanded an unruly group of individuals that had gathered on property. The shopping center is open for business as usual.”