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Published: Saturday, 12/24/2011

Sneakers spark shopping frenzy

Release of Air Jordans brings arrests across U.S., 3 locally

BY TAYLOR DUNGJEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
A newly-purchased Air Jordans sneaker is shown in front of a line of customers at the Nike Store at Union Square Friday. A newly-purchased Air Jordans sneaker is shown in front of a line of customers at the Nike Store at Union Square Friday.
AP Enlarge

Cross-country mayhem accompanying the much-awaited release of new Nike Air Jordan11 Retro Concord sneakers included three arrests early Friday at Toledo's largest shopping mall.

Travis Schafer, 18, and Ashley Nelson, 21, were arrested and issued court summonses for disorderly conduct, according to a Toledo Police report about the incident at Westfield Franklin Park mall. A 16-year-old girl, whose name was not released because of her age, was taken to the Lucas County Juvenile Justice Center, charged with obstructing official business.

The limited-edition shoes, billed as a retro model of the most popular Air Jordan model ever made, officially went on sale at 5 a.m. Friday. But by midnight, a "large crowd" had gathered at the mall's Talmadge Road entrance, jockeying for position to be at the head of the line, police said.

Mall security called police in at 12:37 a.m. when the eager sneaker shoppers began pounding on the mall's doors. Police dispersed that crowd, but people persistently returned and, about 4:30 a.m., another large group "began to rush the doors," the report said.

Once police restored order, a limited number of people were allowed into the mall to buy the sneakers at the Foot Locker and Finish Line stores.

The Toledo incident echoed disturbances at malls and shopping centers across the United States, including one in suburban Seattle where police used pepper spray Friday on about 20 people who started fighting over the sneakers.

A crowd started gathering at four stores in the Westfield Southcenter mall in Tukwila, Wash., around midnight and had grown to more than 1,000 people by 4 a.m., when the stores opened, Tukwila police officer Mike Murphy said.

"Around 3 [a.m.], there started to be some fighting and pushing among the customers," he said. "Around 4, it started to get pretty unruly and officers sprayed pepper spray on a few people who were fighting, and that seemed to do the trick to break them up."

Mr. Murphy said no significant injuries were reported, although some people suffered cuts or scrapes from fights. An 18-year-old man was arrested for assault after punching an officer, authorities said.

"He did not get his shoes," Mr. Murphy said. "He went to jail." Shoppers also broke two doors.

In Taylor, Mich., southwest of Detroit, about 100 people forced their way into a shopping center around 5:30 a.m., damaging Christmas decorations and overturning benches. Police say a 21-year-old man was arrested.

Frenzies over new Air Jordans -- a pair currently retails for about $180 -- have been dangerous in the past. Some people were mugged, or even killed, for early versions of the shoe, created by Nike in 1985.

Branded for basketball superstar Michael Jordan, the shoes have been a consistent hit. A new edition was launched each year, and release dates in some cases were moved to weekends to keep students from cutting classes to buy them.

No one anticipated the hysteria around the Air Jordan, which spawned a subculture of collectors willing to wait hours to buy the latest model. Some collectors save the shoes for special occasions, while others never take them out of the box. But in recent years, uproar over the shoes has diminished.

A representative for Nike, based in Beaverton, Ore., was not immediately available for comment.

Other disturbances reported at stores across the country Friday ranged from shoving and threats to property damage and attempted robbery.

In Northern California, two men were arrested at a Fairfield mall after crowds shoved each other to get in position for the Nikes, police said.

In Stockton, Calif., Detective Joe Silva said a person was taken into custody at Weberstown Mall on suspicion of making criminal threats involving the shoes. Police also were investigating an attempted robbery in the mall's parking lot that targeted a victim wrongly believed to have just purchased Air Jordans.

In Richmond, Calif., near Oakland, crowds waiting to buy the shoes at the Hilltop Mall were turned away after a gunshot rang out about 7 a.m., police said. No injuries were reported, but police said a 24-year-old suspect was in custody. The gun apparently went off inadvertently, the Contra Costa Times reported.

In Lithonia, Ga., at least four people were arrested after customers broke down a door at a store selling the shoes. DeKalb County police said up to 20 squad cars responded.

Officers escorted most of the people outside but took four into custody, an Atlanta television station reported.

Police also were called to malls in Nebraska and Kentucky over reports of crowds, fights, and broken doors.

Information from The Blade's news services was used in this report.

Contact Taylor Dungjen at: tdungjen@theblade.com or 419-724-6054.



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