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Police: 9 arrested after Mall of America fights

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 4:12 PM EST, Tue December 27, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Police: At one point, authorities received reports of at least 10 fights
  • A "series of fights" break out at the Mall of America, officials say
  • A witness says there were "chairs being thrown everywhere"
  • The mall describes itself as the nation's largest

(CNN) -- Authorities arrested at least nine people after a "series of fights" at the nation's biggest shopping mall sent chairs flying and caused after-Christmas shoppers to flee, officials in Minnesota said Tuesday.

Police and security officers at the Mall of America arrested a mix of young adults and juveniles after a food-court fight around 4 p.m. Monday broke up into brawls elsewhere in the shopping center, Bloomington Police Department Commander Mark Stehlik said. At one point, police received reports of up to 10 separate fights, he said.

Video of one incident showed a man picking up a chair to throw as crowds of shoppers, some screaming, fled a mall food court. The video also showed a group of what appeared to be youths brawling before police officers intervened.

Witnesses described a chaotic scene.

"There were drinks thrown on the floor and chairs being thrown everywhere," witness Tess Dessalgne told television station KARE. She reported that "everyone started running toward the fight," while the video showed others leaving the area.

Another woman told CNN affiliate WCCO that she "didn't really know what was going on" when stores unexpectedly began closing down but soon saw police "pushing us all away from Nordstrom (department store)."

"Unfortunately, as we have witnessed at shopping sites across the country this week, large groups of individuals can come together and create bad situations," mall officials said in a statement. "It is very unfortunate to see these incidents occurring, especially during the holiday shopping season when families are out spending time together."

No serious injuries were reported, the statement said. The mall remained open, although some stores closed down temporarily.

Some witnesses told WCCO the fights began after reports that rappers Lil' Wayne and Drake were visiting the mall.

"I've heard that and some other things as far as speculation. I don't know that there's anything to substantiate that," Stehlik said.

Investigators are still working to determine what caused the fight, he said.

"Frankly, at this time, we don't really have any idea, and we might never. It's hard to say what starts a fight," he said.

The mall responded to a query on Twitter by saying, "Drake is not here."

"There was no shooting," the mall tweeted to one person. "Chairs were thrown in the food court resulting in the loud noise you heard."

At one point, more than 30 officers were trying to calm the crowd, Stehlik said. He described the series of fights as a "highly unusual event."

"We kind of pushed people out toward one of the exit doors and out of the mall in an attempt to quell the crowd a little bit," he said. "Once we got everybody out, the whole thing kind of just settled down and went back to business as usual."

The Mall of America describes itself as the largest retail and entertainment complex in the United States. It says it has more than 520 stores, 50 restaurants and attractions that include an aquarium, flight simulator and a spa for children.

CNN's Ashley Hayes and Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.

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