Two adults and one juvenile were arrested for criminal trespass at Towne East Square early Friday morning during a nationwide frenzy over the release of Nike’s new Air Jordan 11 Retro Concord basketball shoes.
Police said up to 400 people had been camped outside of the mall since midnight in anticipation of Champs, The Finish Line and Foot Locker’s 7 a.m. early release events. Around 6:30 a.m. a service door apparently was left open and people rushed into the mall. Wichita police arrived to assist with security at 7 a.m. and found the crowd inside the mall.
Police escorted most of the crowd back outside but a few remained hiding in the mall. Three of those people were arrested, police said, but this did little to still the rowdy crowd.
“There were a few people injured, including a small child who was run over and got a bloody nose,” Sgt. Bruce Watts said. “A lot of people were pushed and shoved, including an officer.”
Lillo Hartfield, who bought a pair of Air Jordans from Champs, said such behavior is common when Nike releases a new model of Air Jordans every year.
“It’s madness, that’s all it is,” Hartfield said. “It got a little chippy but it was nothing major. A couple of guys got thrown to the ground.”
Hartfield said he thought the police’s efforts were too excessive, but he commended the stores for handling the situation well.
“Champs did a good job,” Hartfield said. “I really feel like the mall don’t give a damn about us; if it was Paula Deen pants, they wouldn’t care.”
The Finish Line manager-in-training Tom Taverner said the situation could have been handled better. He believes that tickets should have been passed out to the people waiting outside, slowly letting them in.
“A lot of people could have been hurt,” Taverner said. “There were people running down the escalators. We could have saved a lot of hassle and wouldn’t have had security all over.”
He said The Finish Line received 44 pairs, but had over 100 people lined up to buy them. Foot Locker had 36 pairs, its manager said. Champs and Foot Locker declined further comment.
Hartfield said his Air Jordans retailed for about $193, with tax included. The shoes were averaging $350-$400 on eBay Friday afternoon.
Julie Feigeles, Director of Marketing & Business Development at Towne East, declined comment, merely saying that “it was a very exciting shoe release.”
Wichita was not alone in the buzz over the shoes.
At a suburban Seattle mall, a crowd of about 20 was pepper-sprayed after getting into a fight.
"Around 3 (a.m.) there started to be some fighting and pushing among the customers," Tukwila, Wash., police officer Mike Murphy 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."
When 25 police officers responded, they smelled marijuana and found alcohol containers on the scene. They said the situation was getting very wild and would have turned into a riot had police not intervened.
"It was not a nice orderly group of shoppers," Murphy said. "There were a lot of hostile and disorderly people."
In suburban Atlanta, at least four people were arrested in the mad dash to buy the Air Jordans. DeKalb County Police told Fox 5 Atlanta that a large crowd broke down a door to get into the mall.
Officers said they had to break a car window to get two toddlers out after a woman went in after the shoes. They said she was taken into custody when she returned to the car.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.