Police radio traffic at Mall St. Matthews: 'We need help. We need people over here'
A 40-minute police radio transmission recorded and uploaded to the internet authenticated by the St. Matthews Police Department captures the type of behavior officers were dealing with -- fights, loitering, reports of shots fired and hundreds of juveniles refusing to leave Mall St. Matthews.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Thousands of people had crowded into Mall St. Matthews on Saturday evening -- some to watch a movie while others were there to return or exchange items and shop at one of the mall's 115 stores.
Kaylee Mitchell was there for about 30 minutes looking for some after-Christmas sales when suddenly, people starting running and screaming.
"I was waiting on my dad because a couple of minutes before they closed the doors of the store I was in and they asked us (customers) to leave," she said. "At first I just saw a few people running, so I started to record the video on my phone until I saw everyone start to rush towards the nearest door. I was in front of Dillard's. I ran in and everyone else did too, even employees."
Mitchell said it was the "scariest moment she's ever had."
"After it calmed, I asked a few people and they all told me they heard someone yelling that there was a gun," she said.
A 40-minute police radio transmission recorded and uploaded to Minnesota Police Clips and authenticated by the St. Matthews Police Department on Sunday captures the type of behavior officers were dealing with: fights, loitering, reports of shots fired and hundreds of juveniles refusing to leave the mall.
"There were as many as 2,000 kids at the mall -- many of them unsupervised," said Officer Dennis McDonald, the public information officer for the St. Matthews Police Department. "A good amount of them were there for legitimate reasons -- to shop, eat or go to the movies. But a large number were there to do nothing other than loiter, harass other shoppers and be confrontational with police officers."
McDonald said there were six officers assigned to the mall as part of a normal holiday detail, when around 7 p.m., those officers alerted dispatchers and other units about a disturbance involving juveniles, which was followed up by several other disturbances caused by other juveniles.
"The calls started to pile up and we couldn't respond in a timely matter," McDonald said.
Around that time, dispatchers began to receive calls from area businesses located near the mall.
At the Toys 'R' Us at 4900 Shelbyville Road, a dispatcher is heard sending an officer to the store in response to "a subject throwing bricks at the back of the back of the building, outside. Manager advises he can hear them throwing the items and shouting."
One of the six St. Matthews Police Officers assigned to the mall on the holiday detail began relaying details of what was taking place inside.
"We've got multiple crowds of hundreds, we've got stores going into lock down, shutting their gates," he told dispatchers. "We are responding to another fight right now by the Victoria's Secret entrance. They are going on all around us."
Another officer advised he was outside the Victoria's Secret: "We have a huge crowd inside the mall at this time."
Shortly before 8 p.m., one of the officers advised that "mall management is making the decision to push everyone out of the mall."
"We're going to have all our off duty officers plus corrections officers and security officers starting at the food court. If you have any available cars on the street, have them come to food court area."
Many other St. Matthews Police officers who were off began to report to duty and head towards the mall.
One officer advised it had "calmed down just a little bit after the (police) dog was used to escort some of them out."
"Since then, we've had once and a bunch of them shaking the gate on one of the stores that was trying to close."
He tells a supervisor that mall security is "wanting to push all these people out" and that he was trying to "get them to wait until we get more people here and on the outside."
His supervisor replies: "Absolutely, you tell them that is our SMPD position on this -- to do this properly and as safely for everybody concerned."
While officers inside the mall were waiting on assistance from different agencies including the Louisville Metro Police Department, Jeffersontown Police Department and the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, there was a report of another incident near the food court.
"Radio, we are pushing out approximately 500 kids at this moment, trying to get out by the Victoria's Secret," an officer advised dispatchers.
Another officer: "We have some type of incident going on inside the middle of the mall, just up from food court. We have a huge problem at the Santa Claus area at this time."
Dispatchers were also busy taking calls from people and businesses inside the mall, including one from an employee inside the Earthbound Trading Company store, advising "she heard a gunshot and several subjects running."
Employees inside the Yankee Candle called dispatch to say they had customers "inside the store with the gates locked for their protection until (police) units come by."
Another officer: "We have hundreds of kids headed towards the movie theater," which was temporarily locked while officers investigated reports of shots fired inside the mall and outside in the parking lot.
Around 8:30 p.m.: "Radio we are being advised that people are being shot at."
Another officer: "Some kids just ran up to us and said some people started shooting."
Officers on scene reported they didn't see or hear any shots fired.
"They did run to the back lot, the lot in front of the Cinemark and started jumping on cars," one officer advised.
"We need more units by the Cinemark. We need help. We need people over here," another officer yelled on the radio.
Groups of juveniles would run from the mall to the move theater and then back, McDonald said.
"They just take off running for awhile, they stop and then they end up coming back into a group," an officer told other units on the radio. "It's hard to tell what they are up to, but they are now starting to congregate in a group in that lot in front of the Cinemark."
Some of the groups of juveniles left the Cinemark and made their way to the Shelbyville Road Plaza.
The law enforcement agencies that responded were broken into zones along Shelbyville Road to disperse crowds, many of whom were attempting to get into the Taco Bell and other businesses along Shelbyville Road.
LMPD's helicopter also assisted in the investigation.
St. Matthews Police say authorities got control of the situation around 9:30 p.m.
No arrests were made -- McDonald said officers were "doing all we could to maintain order and get them to leave without anyone getting hurt."
"There is only so much law enforcement can do," he said.
"The mall is private property," McDonald added. "Mall management is going to have to look at their rules and policies to see what they can do to curb this kind of behavior. We've had issues with juveniles loitering before, but nothing to this scale."
McDonald said St. Matthews Police will meet with mall management in the coming days to discuss how to prevent a similar situation in the future.
"We have identified kids who are there to do nothing other than cause problems," he said. "They don't have any money on them, so they aren't there to shop, eat or see a movie. There are there to harass and confront others."
As the juveniles left the area, some got into cars while others loaded TARC buses to leave the area.
"We called and asked for several additional buses to help us get them out of the area," McDonald said. "And each bus was loaded with kids."
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