Photo Gallery | PHOTOS: Large fight at Arden Fair Mall causes panic
SACRAMENTO, CA - Arden Fair Mall went into lockdown after a large fight in the food court Wednesday around 4:45 p.m.
Sacramento police said three teens were arrested after a fist-fight, involving 20 juveniles, broke out.
"He swung at one of the dudes; they started fighting and all the groups jumped in, and they all started fighting," said shopper Gabby Miller, who witnessed the fight.
Miller said even after police and mall security jumped in, some of the teens kept fighting.
"The police caught maybe three of them, and then they all came over here towards the pretzel place and did it a second time," Miller explained.
That's when many customers in the mall went into a panic. The loud sounds from the fight echoed through the mall sounding like gunshots.
"Something similar to gunshots; we don't know if there was actually gunshots, but it did sound like shots," store employee Crystal Rocha said.
"You start thinking the worst thing that can possibly happen, like I just imagined someone with a gun or someone coming into the store and threatening us," shopper Ashley Ventura said.
"We hid behind a jewelry counter at Macy's, and then I was finally like, we need to get out of here. I'm not about to get shot behind a jewelry counter," shopper Samantha Lanni said.
Mall Security Director Steve Reed said no gunshots were fired during or after the fight. Sacramento police said reports of a shooting or someone with a gun were unfounded. They believe the sounds of large signs falling over may have led people to report shots fired.
Many stores went into lock down closing their metal gates when the incident began.
Security worked well
Witnesses said police and security officers were at the scene of the fight in less than a minute.
"The policeman came up and pulled away the group and then people started running," Miller said.
The mall has 167 cameras constantly monitoring the mall in real-time and security officers can be given radio instructions within moments of an disturbance. There were also at least four Sacramento police officers working off-duty at the mall when the fight broke out.
A number of store employees did their part to try to shield customers from harm.
Store manager Crystal Rocha, with cutegirl.com, locked the front doors of her store, then led frightened shoppers out the back door of the store to the parking lot.
The incident was over so quickly that many responding officers were cancelled before ever reaching the mall.
By 6 p.m. the mall was re-opened to the public and stores lifted their security gates. Reed said the mall had "business as usual" Wednesday night.
Even after it was all over, it was hard for many to catch their breath.
"You just never know what could happen at any time," shopper Nicole Marino said.