After ending 2016 on an ominous note that featured more than a dozen instances of teens fighting in shopping malls across the country, Culver City opened 2017 with its own version of a 21st century rumble.
Nearly 200 teens began running through Westfield Culver City Mall on Dec. 7 at approximately 5:30 p.m., forcing mall security and later the Culver City Police Dept. to evacuate the mall.
The shopping center reopened the next day.
Outside several fights broke out in the mall’s parking lot and swarms of teenagers retreated to a gas station near the corner of Sepulveda Boulevard and Slauson Avenue, across the street from Westfield’s.
The Westfield fights echoed similar events at shopping malls in Florida, Tennessee, Colorado and Texas that broke out just before New Year’s Eve. In those brawls, police also evacuated the shopping centers but made few arrests.
No arrests were made in the Jan. 8 disturbance. But like the other incidents, rumors of a social media post inviting teens to come to Westfield for a fight spread quickly through the community but police have been unable to confirm it.
Rumors of gunfire were also eventually discarded by police.
Juyoung Chang runs Sanrio Smiles, a Hello Kitty store at the mall. After 15 years at the mall she said there has never been anything like the recent event but it has always been a teenage hangout.
“Every Saturday we see a lot of teenagers. Sometimes we have problems with all the yelling and running,” Chang said. “We call security sometimes but they cannot do anything if they don’t hurt anybody.”
On social media, several people claiming to be mall employees criticized security and demanded that Westfield make changes to its security protocol.
Westfield representatives did not return several phone calls for comment. Asked if the Culver City Unified School District would address the fights at its Jan. 10 meeting, CCUSD Superintendent Joshua Arnold said the school district is maintaining communication with law enforcement.
“We're fortunate to have a great relationship with CCPD, and have been working closely with them since the weekend on any possible Culver City youth connections to the mall incident,” Arnold said. “So far, no CCUSD students have been identified as participants.”