East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputies Saturday night investigated what appeared to be a large fight involving as many as 200 juveniles in the Mall of Louisiana food court as well as outside the mall, a sheriff’s spokeswoman said.
Deputies responded around 6 p.m. to a report of fighting at the mall, Casey Rayborn Hicks said in a news release.
No injuries or weapons being drawn were reported, Hicks said.
Deputies have evidence that shows who started the fight and those people will be arrested and booked into Parish Prison on fistic encounter, Hicks said late Saturday.
Marcus Jenkins, 17, and Jerry Johnson, 16, both of Baton Rouge, said they were hanging out with friends at the mall when they saw a large crowd of people running out of the mall and decided to follow them.
Jenkins said he heard there was a big fight and possibly a shooting, but he did not see anything happening, except the stampede out the door.
“This is about the craziest thing I ever seen,” Johnson said.
Shane Ash, 30, of Central, said he was with his wife, daughter and parents in the Build-A-Bear when they heard “a stampede of people above us.”
As that was happening Ash said, the cashier closed the gate to the front of the store and brought everyone to the very rear of the store for about 15 minutes.
He said he walked to the gate out of curiosity.
“For about 10 minutes, there were still people running everywhere,” Ash said, adding half of the people in the crowd were “screaming in terror and half were giggling and running like it was a joke.”
Law enforcement authorities stepped in and diverted all juveniles to the open area between BJ’s Brewhouse and Bravo restaurants outside the mall. The youths were to remain at that location until their parents arrived to pick them up, Hicks said.
Deputies and mall security personnel worked with the large crowd outside, reminding juveniles to call their parents for rides home, but preventing the youths from running across Mall of Louisiana Boulevard to the Rave Cinema.
Some parents drove by, trying to locate their children in the crowd, while other parents and relatives tried to pull into the parking lots so they could search afoot for their offspring.
Others parents parked at the Rave Cinema and other stores across the boulevard and walked to the mall.
According to reports heard on a police scanner after the incident, groups of juveniles streamed from the Mall of Louisiana to Perkins Rowe, reportedly causing more disturbances at Perkins Rowe.
Deputies were told a social media post about a flash mob at the mall may have drawn a crowd to the area, Hicks said.
Keaneu Eaton, 17, of Baton Rouge, said the incident did not involve a flash mob, but started with an Instagram “meet and greet” invitation so Instagram users could meet up with their followers. He said he and other friends shared the Instagram post of others and spread the word.
Nick Brown, 17, of Baton Rouge, who accompanied Eaton outside the Rave Cinema, said the meet and greet had no violent intent, it was just a chance for them to have a friendly meeting with people with whom they connected via the Internet.
The unruly gathering caused major traffic jams in and around the mall, Hicks said.
Traffic contraflow was put in place from Bluebonnet Boulevard by Chase Bank to Picardy Avenue/Mall of Louisiana Boulevard, Hicks said.
Baton Rouge police and State Police responded to help sheriff’s deputies with the heavy traffic on Bluebonnet out to Perkins Road and near Interstate 10.
Authorities released the traffic controls to allow vehicles to travel regularly at about 7:50 p.m., while deputies continued their investigation of the incident, according to reports heard on the police scanner.
A similar incident at the Mall of Louisiana about a year ago led to the shootings of two teenagers, Hicks has said.
The shooting happened at about 9:30 p.m. Jan. 7 when one teenager fired a weapon into a crowd during an argument with other teens, Hicks reported at the time.
The bullets struck two teenage bystanders, who were taken to a hospital with injuries that Hicks described as non life-threatening.
Two 17-year-olds were indicted Feb. 29 on attempted murder charges in the shootings.
An East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury charged Johnny Williams, 11246 Cypress Glen Ave., Baton Rouge; and Michael Leneal Burrell, 501 Crosley Drive, Baker, with two counts each of attempted first-degree murder in that case.
Burrell allegedly supplied Williams with the gun that Williams is accused of using in the shooting, an affidavit of probable cause states. Burrell also is accused of being involved in the argument that led to the shooting and for giving Williams a ride afterward, the affidavit says.
Mall of Louisiana management had planned to hire off-duty sheriff’s deputies for increased night patrols on Saturday evenings after the two teenagers were shot, Hicks has said.
The mall is located on private property, but the Sheriff’s Office provides security assistance, Hicks has said.