Independence Center locked down some stores Friday night after large groups of youths congregated in what police described as an organized “flash mob.”
But that didn’t deter Saturday shoppers seeking post-Christmas discounts — as much as 75 percent off at some stores. They filled the parking lot and strolled through the center, many with shopping bags in hand.
In a statement, Angela Pyszczynski, general manager at Independence Center, said that “there was a minor, isolated incident involving disruptive teens that resulted in no injuries due to the quick response by our security team along with the Independence Police Department.
“We maintain a zero-tolerance policy for all criminal activity as we strive to maintain the best possible shopping experience for all visitors.”
Independence police first arrived about 8:20 p.m. Friday to handle “disruptive” youths. Officers saw 200 to 300 young people pouring out of the building, some kicking doors as they went, Capt. Mike Onka said. Kansas City and Blue Springs police responded to a call for assistance, in addition to Jackson County sheriff’s deputies and Missouri Highway Patrol troopers.
No arrests were made, and no injuries were reported.
Independence police spokesman Tom Gentry on Saturday described the Friday disruption as a “flash mob” organized through social media.
“I don’t think it’s anything more than that,” he said.
Gentry pointed out it’s not a crime for dozens of youth to congregate at the mall. While there were reports of fights outside the mall, they broke up as soon as officers approached, he said.
“We didn’t have reason to arrest anyone.”
The only report of property damage was a door to the mall knocked off its hinge, Gentry said.
Some store owners weren’t even aware of the disruption Friday night.
Peng Her, a partner in the Yoki store in the City Market, recently opened a seasonal store in Independence Center and plans to operate it at least through mid-February. He didn’t know about the Friday night disturbance at the mall until he arrived home and saw it on television.
“We haven’t been here long, so I didn’t know if there was more traffic than usual,” he said Saturday. “But there were a lot of kids and police presence.”
One couple said they were so unconcerned with the Friday night incident that they finished eating their dinner at Applebee’s as police dispersed the crowds. They returned Saturday to finish shopping.
Kristine Hoffman of Springfield, Va., was in town visiting family and had heard about the Friday commotion. She had worked at the Independence Center Sears store as a youth and stopped by Saturday morning to shop the sales with her 10-year-old daughter, Jenna.
“Saturday morning is a good time” Hoffman said. “Teenagers are in bed.”
Some shoppers said they will no longer let their teenagers shop at night, and one parent said her teenage son declined to come to the mall Saturday afternoon, expressing concerns about his safety.
But Misty Bloss of Holden, Mo., plans to continue to be a regular Independence Center customer.
“We come all this way to shop,” she said. “I hope it is an isolated incident.”
The Star’s Matt Campbell contributed to this report.