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Chris Van Horne, NBC 5 Fort Worth Reporter
North Texans are getting last minute Christmas shopping done while a rush for Air Jordan shoes at Hulen Mall lead police to use pepper spray on a crowd of hundreds.
In the chilly pre-dawn hours Friday, a frenzy of hundreds of people rushed toward the doors of Hulen Mall to try get their hands on the latest pair of Air Jordans.
Fort Worth police estimate 300-400 people crammed on top of each other and pushed their way to the entrance to try to secure a spot in line for Nike's newest shoe -- the Air Jordan Retro 11. The shoes cost around $200 for adults but can go for more than twice that on the secondary market.
Dozens of police officers were called to the scene to manage the crowd, which overran mall security.
"There was like a big riot over here, people got, like, pepper sprayed ... it was really crazy. It was, like, chaos. Horrible. You couldn't go through anywhere. If you go through there, it'd be like pretty much squishing, pushed down on the floor, stepped on. It was really crazy. Over some shoes. It was like a black Friday for shoes," said Julio Lomeli.
Fort Worth police said one mall security officer, surrounded by the raucous crowd and worried that he would be assaulted, used pepper spray to attempt to disperse the oncoming throng.
"There was really no assaults going on, they were just crowding each other. And the officer was getting surrounded and he was potentially worried that he was going to get assaulted, so that's when the pepper spray came out," said Lt. Deven Pitt, with the Fort Worth Police Department.
As the crowd surged, a Fort Worth police officer was knocked down. The officer also dispersed pepper spray in an attempt to create enough room to stand up.
"I know people die for them, so I was expecting the worst. But, getting pepper sprayed in the eye is like the worst feeling ever. Like three times too. It sucks, because I stayed up the whole night trying to get these," said Aaron Garcia, who, along with his mother Teri, tried unsuccessfully to get a pair of the new shoes.
Once the crowd outside of the mall was brought under control, police and mall officials allowed shoppers to go into the mall a few at a time to purchase the shoes.
Fort Worth police said the chaos may have been avoided if one shoe store had followed the lead of others and implemented a voucher system for selling the shoes.
"Usually they hand out vouchers and they allow people to come get them at different times, which most of the stores in there did. There is only one store in there in the mall that decided not to go that route, and this was the result," said Pitt, with the Fort Worth Police Department.
After a similar crowding incident last year, police officials said they will work with the mall to develop a better plan for the future to mitigate the risk of injury to shoppers.
Fort Worth police said no arrests were made and that there were no injuries other than those suffered by people directly hit by pepper spray.