Police in Riot Gear Break Up Shoe Melee at Florida Mall

Susan Jacobson, Orlando Sentinel, February 24, 2012

The launch of an expensive new basketball shoe—timed to Orlando’s hosting of the NBA All-Star Game—triggered a melee Thursday night at Florida Mall that was quelled by deputies in riot gear.

The wild scene erupted about 9:45 p.m. as hundreds of people packed the mall’s parking lot, hoping to buy the new shoe at midnight. As the crowd grew, a large contingent of Orange County deputy sheriffs arrived, braced for problems.

Similar shoe releases have caused violence at shoe stores across the country.

Two people were arrested on trespassing charges Thursday at Florida Mall. A third person—a woman—was arrested this morning for fighting outside Foot Locker.

Witnesses told the Orlando Sentinel that the crowd was asked to wait across the street when the mall closed at 9 p.m., but one person made a mad dash toward the Foot Locker where the shoes were to go on sale, and hundreds followed.

“I saw hundreds of people running toward me. I thought I was going to get trampled,” said Amanda Charles, 20, who was among a group of a half-dozen friends who drove from Jacksonville to try to buy the glow-in-the-dark Nikes.

Witnesses said more deputies quickly arrived, decked out in riot gear and fortified by still more deputies on horseback, on motorcycles and in patrol cars. A helicopter with a spotlight hovered overhead.

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The deputies formed a line and used shields to push back the crowd, witnesses said. They said the deputies threatened to use pepper spray but did not.

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More than 100 law-enforcement officers from the Sheriff’s Office, the Orlando Police Department and Florida Highway Patrol responded to the mall and were continuing to disperse the crowd as of midnight. {snip}

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Several people said they coveted the $220, limited-edition shoes for their resale value, which some estimated at up to 10 times or more than the retail price.

“It’s all about the swag,” Gomez said.

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[Editor’s Note: More video footage is available at the original article link below.]

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