Wisconsin cops investigating if near-riot at Mayfair Mall was organized on Facebook


January 3rd 2011

Police in Wauwatosa, Wis., are looking into a fracas at the Mayfair Mall that could have begun on a social networking site.

The mall, which shut down early on Sunday, was overrun by dozens of unruly teens who ran screaming through the mall, scaring shoppers.

One shopper, Elsa Mercado, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that she was trying on clothes at an Ann Taylor Loft when she heard loud noises. When her sister tried to check on her, she told the newspaper, they discovered that some of the stores had brought down security gates.

“Someone was pounding on our door and saying, ‘Please let me in. There’s gunfire.’ We unlocked the door and let him in. He was very frightened, he was very pale,” Mercado told the newspaper.

In what could have been an unrelated incident, a gun was fired in the mall’s parking lot in an attempted armed robbery, a Wauwatosa police spokesperson confirmed to the Daily News.

But whether those incidents are related – or what sparked the raucousness – is still under investigation. While mall managers had been concerned about an attempted flash-mob event being organized on Facebook before Christmas, it was not immediately clear if that’s what happened on what had previously been a calm Sunday.

The first flash-mob – which is a group of people assembling in a public place to perform a prearranged activity (in this case, freeze tag) – was foiled after managers saw a group on Facebook. The members of the group were given a one-day ban from the mall.

Police said that could certainly be what happened in this situation – but they are still looking into other possibilities.

“[It’s] just as much of a possibility that they met at the mall and decided to do some kind of game and it got out of hand when other people joined in,” a Wauwatosa Police spokesperson said.

The police took between five and seven juveniles into custody, and are still searching for more leads.

In a statement to the Journal-Sentinel, a spokesperson for Macy’s, one of the stores that was closed early on Sunday, said that they had worked with mall security in their efforts to protect shoppers.

“The safety of our customers is always Macy’s top priority,” she said.

Wauwatosa police said they always maintained a presence at the mall, which was described as a popular shopping destination.

“I wouldn’t say that we have a lot of police presence,” a spokesperson said. “There was nothing more than our normal mall activity, and we do have people or police officers stationed at the mall normally.”

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