Mall St. Matthews in Louisville, Kentucky reopened on Sunday after a group of nearly 2,000 teens shut it down the night before.
On Saturday night, at approximately 7:00 p.m., the St. Matthews Police Department started receiving numerous phone calls about disturbances taking place at the mall. St. Matthews Police spokesman Dennis McDonald told ABC News that the calls were flooding in reporting juveniles loitering, refusing to leave businesses, and fighting.
The mall was scheduled to close at 10:00 p.m., but ended up closing nearly an hour before due to the unruly teens. At the time of the incidents, there were only six police officers stationed at the mall to help the security officers. By the end of the night, over 50 police officers, from four different police departments, had arrived at the shopping mall, along with K9 units and a helicopter.
“We started heading toward the exit and we saw larger numbers of teenagers and they started kind of running and congregating in one area, and then all the police, all the security started running in that direction and then we decided it’s time to head the other direction,” one eyewitness, Chuck Hibbs, told WLKY-TV.
— Toni Konz (@tkonz) December 27, 2015
McDonald explained that they had stationed extra officers at the mall due to the large number of customers who were shopping during the holiday season. However, they never expected something of this magnitude to take place. While the incident involved thousands of teenagers, McDonald said he doesn’t believe it was an organized event, rather a bunch of kids feeding off one another’s actions.
“This is something that we did not foresee and even with an enhanced police presence when you have that many juveniles with wrong intentions, one feeding upon the other, this is the kind of thing that happens,” McDonald said.
“I don’t believe this was organized, I believe this was random. I believe this was a by-product of juveniles congregating and there being some disturbances growing out of that. Fights if you will. Those kind of things and escalating out of control. As quick as we would get there, they would disperse move to another location and what we’ve tried to do is just to keep them moving,” he continued.
As the altercations continued, the teens moved from inside the mall to the parking lots, prompting nearby businesses to close their doors early as well. McDonald said he believes the kids were using social media to communicate as the fights escalated.
Still A LOT of police at Mall St Matthews after police say up to 2,000 teens were fighting inside and in parking lot pic.twitter.com/R7A9qbOuWL
— William Joy (@WilliamWAVE3) December 27, 2015
“We think they were communicating using social media,” he said. “They would disperse and then all of a sudden there would be another group congregating at another location.”
McDonald said Mall St. Matthews is “probably the largest mall in Kentucky,” with over 100 stores, a movie theater and multiple restaurants. After closing their doors early on Saturday, the mall reopened at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday with extra police officers present. There were no reported problems as of Sunday afternoon.
“We’ll have a law enforcement presence there today,” McDonald said. “We’ll be working with mall management and mall security to see if they can come up with any policies… to curb this kind of behavior in the future.”