OCOEE, Fla.— City leaders and authorities are left weighing their options following a large-scale riot at a Central Florida mall on Saturday.
According to reports, nearly 800 teenagers dashed through the West Oaks Mall's food court Saturday night with about 100 of them then running into the mall’s AMC movie theater.
"A whole bunch of kids came in the store and started stealing stuff. They was just taking everything out of the store,” witness Taylor Davis told local NBC affiliate WESH.
While similar incidents have occurred at the mall, Saturday’s riot is said to be the largest to date. A YouTube video shot by a mall-goer back in April of last year provides a glimpse of the teenaged crowd’s riotous behavior.
After moving through the mall and movie theater, the teenagers reportedly carried the chaos across the street and broke into nearby businesses. At least one robbery was reported, according to police.
Following the mayhem, authorities with the Ocoee Police Department (OPD) said one juvenile was arrested on charges of battery and resisting arrest without violence while a second teen now faces a misdemeanor drug charge following an arrest off mall property that may not be linked to the mall riot.
"Our main concern is this: These are middle and high school kids going to a public movie theater, some armed with guns, some firing guns, some fighting in the parking lot, disturbing everyone else there. Not only that, but putting them in danger with the violence they're creating," Orange County Sheriff's Office Lt. Paul Hopkins told WESH.
The group was dispersed with the assistance of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and two other area police departments. After restoring order, investigators contacted parents who came to pick some of the teenagers up.
Following a review of surveillance footage, officials are expected to develop a plan of action regarding any future riots.
"I'm going to be sure they review the tapes,” said Ocoee, Fla., Mayor Scott Vandergrift, who said there will be consequences for such behavior.
"What they're going to have to do is ban people from the mall if they're going to do that," Vandergrift said.
Vandergrift also said Monday that while the incident is actively under investigation, any further action that is taken against rioters will depend on what the management of West Oaks Mall deems appropriate.
A member of West Oaks Mall management staff said that no statement or information regarding Saturday’s riot has yet been released.