East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputies Sunday arrested six teenagers involved in a fight and its aftermath at the Mall of Louisiana on Saturday evening that led to the evacuation of the building, a spokeswoman said.
Deputies continued Sunday to try and unravel what caused people to panic and start running inside the shopping center at about 6 p.m. Saturday, said Casey Rayborn Hicks, a Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman.
The mall plunged into chaos after as many as 200 juveniles descended in the food court in what Hicks said might have been a planned “flash mob.”
A post on Instagram, an Internet social media site, called for teens to meet at the mall, she said. When the crowd gathered in the food court, a large fight broke out, she said.
Flash mobs are when large groups of people connect through social media and meet in a public place, often to sing and/or dance.
The flash mob
Hicks said deputies monitor planned and rumored gatherings, but watching every Internet posting would be very difficult.
The fight caused a “stampede” witnesses said of people rushing to leave.
Hicks said deputies, city police and state troopers all responded to the incident and mall security helped marshal the teens outside.
Hicks said rumors of weapons in the crowd may have factored into the panic, but deputies have not found evidence to confirm those rumors.
Ultimately the mall was closed.
Mall security deferred all questions Sunday to mall management, who could not be reached for comment.
But all appeared to be back to normal at the mall Sunday.
Jeff Walker, 62, of Gonzales, said he went to the mall Sunday with his wife to do some shopping and return items and sensed no uneasiness from people.
“I don’t see any apprehension anywhere,” he said. “I don’t see anybody with any outward signs of tenseness or nervousness.”
Kim Walker, 42, of Gonzales, who is not related to Jeff Walker, was at the mall Saturday afternoon when the incident happened.
She said her daughter remarked Saturday that the crowd was abnormally large, even for a Saturday.
Walker said she went back Sunday to return items and one event would not deter her from going to the mall.
“I don’t feel uncomfortable,” she said. “I think our young people made some bad decisions.”
Tinasha Richardson, 26, of Baton Rouge, owner of the Go! Calendars kiosk near Macy’s was working Saturday night when she saw people, some running, moving toward the exits.
She said she called the Go! Calendars corporate office to let them know what was happening, covered her cash register and left.
Back at work Sunday, she said she did not notice a difference in sales or customers’ attitudes.
“It’s business as usual. I thought it was gonna be real slow, but people are still coming in here like nothing ever happened,” Richardson said.
Hicks said deputies made the following arrests based on probable cause. She did not release the names because they are juveniles:
- a 14-year-old boy on counts of remaining after forbidden, simple battery and resisting an officer.
- a 13-year-old girl on a count of disturbing the peace.
- a 15-year-old girl on a count of remaining after forbidden.
- a 14-year-old girl on a count of disturbing the peace.
- a 15-year-old boy on counts of disturbing the peace, remaining after forbidden and resisting an officer.
- a 14-year-old boy on counts of interfering with a law enforcement investigation and resisting an officer.