Bailey Loosemore, Courier-Journal, December 29, 2015
Police say a parental escort policy–similar to those found at other malls nationwide–could prevent future situations similar to a Saturday night disturbance at the Mall St. Matthews that required assistance from four police departments and forced the shopping center to close early.
That night, up to 2,000 people–mostly unsupervised juveniles between middle school and high school age–disrupted the post-holiday shopping weekend by causing fights and exhibiting unruly behavior throughout the mall, said Officer Dennis McDonald, a spokesman with the St. Matthews Police Department.
The department received an initial call for service to the mall around 7 p.m., followed quickly by dozens of others as disorderly conduct by small groups of youths increased in the level of violence and gained participation, McDonald said.
“Once this starts happening, kind of a mob mentality takes over and it starts feeding on itself,” McDonald said Sunday. “That’s clearly what happened last night. We’re still looking into whether or not some of this was pre-planned, whether there was a gang element involved.”
McDonald said that while police will continue investigating the situation, the best way to prevent future disturbances is to create a policy at the mall that requires juveniles under a certain age to be accompanied by a parent.
Police are still unsure what started Saturday night’s disturbance, which was unusual in its breadth, McDonald said. As opposed to being limited to a natural gathering place, such as a food court, like fights typically are, the incidents Saturday took place throughout the mall.
Initial calls came from people reporting that teens were harassing customers and loitering in stores after being asked to leave, McDonald said. But as police began to arrive at the mall, the calls increased in concern, with groups breaking out into fistfights and people reporting shots fired both inside and outside the complex. As of yet, the gunshot reports have remained unfounded.
“There were far more calls for service than they had the ability to respond to,” McDonald said, adding that several customers called the department Sunday to report they had been shoved or knocked down. “Things began to escalate.”
By 8 p.m., mall management decided to close the facility–which prompted the fights to spill into the mall’s parking lot, onto adjacent streets and into neighboring businesses, including several restaurants across Shelbyville Road.
“You have to give our officers some credit,” McDonald said. “They were being cussed at, stuff was thrown at them. . . . It could have been much, much worse. We’re very fortunate we didn’t have a police officer injured, fortunate there weren’t more innocent people hurt.”