Police in riot gear break up shoe melee at Florida Mall


Hundreds of people run toward a Foot Locker at Florida Mall to buy newly released Nike athletic shoes. Orange County deputies in riot gear dispersed the crowd. (Courtesy of Dave Filus / February 24, 2012)

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

The wild scene erupted about 9:30 p.m. after hundreds of people packed the mall’s parking lot hoping to buy the new shoe at midnight Thursday. As the crowd got bigger and bigger, a large contingent of Orange County Sheriff’s Office deputies was on on-hand, braced for problems. Similar shoe releases have caused violence at shoe stores across the country.

Witnesses told the Orlando Sentinel that the crowd initially was kept some distance from the Foot Locker store where the shoes were to go on sale, but at some point one person made a mad dash from the crowd toward the store, then hundreds more 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 new Nike shoes.

Witnesses said more deputies quickly arrived, decked out in riot gear. The deputies formed a line and used their shields to push back the crowd, witnesses said. They said the deputies threatened to use pepper spray but did not.

The Sheriff’s Office confirmed that it responded to a disturbance at the mall and was busy dispersing the crowd as of midnight. The parking lot remained full well after the melee as many people were hoping the shoe sale would go on as planned.

Terrance Williams, 22, also of Jacksonville, said he’s a shoe collector and had witnessed other disturbances when new lines of sneakers were unveiled, but none compared to what happened at the Florida Mall.

It was not clear whether anyone was hurt or arrested during the incident.

Nike’s website says the shoes that were to go on sale were part of the Nike All-Star collection with a galactic theme inspired by space exploration and were set for release Friday in a nod to both Orlando and Florida’s space industry.

According to the website: “The Nike Foamposite One, showcasing an out-of-this-world galactic print upper, includes a Polyurethane midsole and a Nike Zoom unit in heel for low-profile, responsive cushioning. Made popular in its debut on the college hardwood in 1998, the Foamposite breaks the mold of conventional footwear design.”

The shoes carry a price tag of $220. Sneakernews.com says they glow in the dark.

Just before Christmas, the release of a new type of Nike Air Jordans caused problems at stores across the country, with crowds breaking into fights and in one case ramming down the doors of a store.

In Jersey City, N.J., a 20-year-old man was stabbed seven times amid a crowd of about 300 people waiting to buy the shoes, a local newspaper reported.

In Vallejo, Calif., police said one person fired a shot at a mall as about 1,000 people lined up for their chance at the shoes; a suspect was arrested.

Near Seattle, police used pepper spray to control fighting among would-be Air Jordan owners.

Scuffles or unruliness among shoppers also was reported in Indianapolis, San Antonio,Charlotte, N.C., and Richmond, Va., resulting in several arrests and injuries.


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