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Sales of new athletic shoe cause fights, arrests

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Police in several cities around the country on Friday were called to stores to manage unruly shoppers seeking Nike's new Air Jordan athletic shoes.

In cities from North Carolina to Washington state, crowds pushed, fought or rushed the doors to buy the black-and-white Air Jordan 11 Retro Concords, which went on sale on Friday, police said.

In Tukwila, Washington, a Seattle suburb, police had to use pepper spray to break up fights in a crowd of 1,000 to 2,000 people at the Westfield South Center mall, according to police spokesman Mike Murphy.

The mall had asked for two police officers for the sale, which started at 3 a.m., but got a much bigger crowd of shoppers than expected, Murphy said. Two entry doors were broken off. It took 25 police officers to subdue the crowd enough to allow people to buy shoes, Murphy said.

One man punched a police officer. "He did not get his shoes," Murphy said. "Instead he went to jail."

Murphy said the crowd left behind empty alcohol containers, and there was a heavy smell of marijuana in the air. "There was definitely a criminal element," he said.

In Indianapolis, incidents were reported at three different malls around the city Friday morning, police said. One store saw a crowd of about 300, which broke a door down.

"We had a large crowd of teens trying to get into the store," Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Kendale Adams said.

An Indianapolis television station, WRTV, ran footage of one incident. It showed young people stampeding into the store, a few losing shoes and jackets on the way in. There were no arrests and no reported injuries, Adams said.

At the Omaha Crossroads Mall, police reported that "a very large crowd became unruly," as crowds began pushing and fights broke out, according to Officer Michael Pecha, an Omaha Police Department spokesman. No arrests or injuries were reported.

Three Charlotte, North Carolina-area malls drew police presence, and one person was arrested, according to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

In Toledo, Ohio, two stores offered a limited supply to go on sale at 5 a.m., Toledo Police Sergeant Joe Heffernan said. Hundreds of people gathered, and by 4:30 a.m. some started fighting for position in line.

Five people were charged with disorderly conduct, Heffernan said. There were no injuries. Police decided to select some buyers to escort into the store.

Nike issued a statement saying the Beaverton, Oregon-based company was "extremely concerned" to hear of reported crowd incidents at some locations. "We encourage anyone wishing to purchase our product to do so in a respectful and safe manner," the statement said.

A pair of the shoes sells for $180, according to the Nike website, but they were already being advertised on EBay with asking bids of as much as $605.

KicksOnFire.com, an online sneaker magazine, has called the shoe "THE sneaker pick-up of the year."

In Richmond, California, a gunshot outside a mall disrupted a line-up of shoppers for the Air Jordan shoes, said Lieutenant Bisa French, a spokeswoman for the Richmond police department.

The gun appears to have gone off accidentally, and the person in the crowd with the weapon was arrested for negligent discharge of a firearm, French said. The incident led the mall, about 10 miles northeast of San Francisco, to shut down for a couple of hours, she said.

Some scenes were more controlled. The Sports Seasons store in Nashville, Tennessee, received 20 pairs to sell, and allowed one customer into the store at a time, manager Marquis Porter said. After a customer bought shoes, an armed guard walked the buyer back to his or her car.

"When I arrived at 7 a.m., we had 50 people waiting outside," Porter said. "I got out of the car and received a round of applause when I walked to the door."

As for those who didn't get shoes, "there were a lot of sad faces," Porter said. "But everyone respected the way we did it. This was the craziest release I've ever seen."

(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski, Colleen Jenkins, Alex Dobuzinskis, Kim Palmer and Tim Ghianni; Editing by Richard Chang)

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