Police were called to quell unruly crowds after hundreds converged outside several Houston-area malls early Sunday morning in hopes of getting a ticket to buy pricey Nike Air Jordan sneakers being released next weekend. Chaos reached a crescendo when a rock shattered a glass entrance door at the Willowbrook Mall and a teenage girl was zapped with a Taser outside The Woodlands Mall.
Montgomery County Sheriff’s spokesman Phil Fitzgerald confirmed a deputy had fired an electric jolt from his Taser during crowd control operations, but said he could not provide any further details because any use of force by an officer must be investigated.
Foot Locker, which had been promoting the release of the Air Jordan 11 Retro ‘Legend Blue,’ did not open Sunday after the incident, and nobody from the store could be reached for comment.
“Our deputies went there in response to a 911 call about a large disturbance. Several hundred had gathered. They were becoming unruly, acting defiant and not following directions,” he said. The name of the teenager was not released and nobody was arrested.
However, a local TV station reported that the teen, who provided cell phone photos of the Taser barb attached to her backside, was taken to an area hospital to be checked as a precaution and then released.
“It seems kind of crazy to wait hours in line for a chance at a pair of sneakers,” said Fitzgerald, adding these mob scenes are becoming a common occurrence when Nike does the very limited releases in years past.
This year fans and collectors were willing to wait over night in lines for the new release of the classic “Legend Blue” shoe, which Nike says it originally sold in 1996. If they made it to the front of the line, they would be given a ticket that would allow them to return next weekend to buy the actual shoe.
It’s a simple white patent and smooth leather shoe with a translucent icy blue sole, listed for $200 on Nike’s web site. Much of the hype surrounding the popular Air Jordans has been attributed to its namesake, Michael Jordan, on basketball’s greatest players, shoe aficionados say.
However, law enforcement organizations are growing concerned that these staged promotions take officers needed to fight crime off the streets and use them for crowd control.
Houston Police officer Tim Norris said over 1,000 people mobbed Willowbrook mall for one of those tickets which resulted in an emergency “citywide assist’ call that sent some 50 officers rushing there in the thick fog early Sunday morning. Glass in west entrance door to this mall was shattered.
The crowd had grown restless after waiting in line for hours. Some began pushing and suddenly things escalated–as the barricade collapsed and some in the crowd rushed forward, throwing rocks at the door, until finally brought under control, the Montgomery County Police Reporter said.
Rowdy crowds were also reported at Deerbrook Mall in Humble and Memorial City Mall in Houston, this news account said.
Similar incidents have happened in previous years as shoppers battled over buying these collectable shoes. The ticket system was designed to minimize crowd control problems within a mall and guarantee people could buy the right sizes.
In 2011, Houston police dispatched extra patrols to the Galleria and other area malls where “sneakerheads” lined up days in advance for another limited edition remake of shoes worn by basketball super star Michael Jordan.
In 2012, an off-duty Fort Worth police officer was working mall security when he was trampled by a crowd of shoppers he had to disperse with mace, according to an Associated Press report. That same year a Houston man, who returned home with the Air Jordan 11 “Bred” shoes he claimed with his ticket, was shot for them.
via – CHRON