By Karen Brooks and Phil Wahba
Nov 29 (Reuters) - The post-Thanksgiving shopping rush sparked incidents of violence across the United States as a police officer was injured breaking up a fight, a shopper was shot in the leg over a TV and a Walmart was evacuated, according to police and media reports.
The holiday shopping incidents also included a suspected shoplifter shot by police in a Chicago suburb and a woman spitting on another woman’s child in an argument over baby clothes.
“Black Friday,” the biggest U.S. shopping day of the year, started a few hours earlier this season as many department stores for the first time opted to open or start discounts on Thanksgiving night.
While most retailers reported peaceful - if hectic - opening hours, some saw the shopping craze erupt into violence.
In White Plains, just north of New York City, an outlet of Wal-Mart Stores Inc was evacuated on Friday, with employees and shoppers saying they had been warned of a possible bomb threat.
Apparently the threat was bogus, and authorities allowed shoppers back in the store about an hour and 40 minutes later.
“Out of nowhere, they just said, ‘You have to evacuate,'” said Olaya Goodman of the Bronx.
A White Plains police dispatcher declined to comment.
In Romeoville, Illinois, police shot a suspected shoplifter in the shoulder late Thursday night after the car he was driving dragged an officer through the parking lot of a Kohl’s department store, Romeoville Police Chief Mark Turvey said in a video posted by the Chicago Tribune newspaper.
Police were responding to a report of two shoplifters at the store when an officer chased one of the suspects to a waiting vehicle, Turvey said.
“The officer was struggling with the suspect as he got into the car, and then the car started to move as the officer was partially inside the car,” Turvey said. “The officer was dragged quite some distance.”
Another officer shot the driver in the shoulder and three suspects were arrested, Turvey said. The dragged officer was treated at a hospital and released, the Chicago Tribune reported.
In Las Vegas, a shopper was shot in the leg during a struggle with thieves who tried to take the TV he had just bought in a Black Friday sale at Target, as he was carrying it to a nearby apartment complex, according to a report by KLAS-TV in Las Vegas.
Las Vegas police did not respond to Reuters requests for confirmation.
A police officer in Rialto, Calif., suffered a fractured hand and finger after responding to an assault in the parking lot of a Walmart just after the sales started Thursday, said Sgt. Richard Royce of the Rialto Police Department, about 50 miles (80 km) east of Los Angeles.
“It was a pretty bizarre scene,” he said.
Two shoppers were leaving the store when they were confronted by two people in a vehicle in the parking lot. One person from the vehicle got out and began punching and kicking the shopper, and also assaulted a woman who tried to stop the fight, Royce said.
When police tried to stop the fight, a second suspect emerged from the vehicle and the two began fighting the officers, he said.
Two victims were treated at a hospital and released, as was the injured officer, Royce said.
The suspected attackers were charged with felony assault, assault on a police officer, and assault with a deadly weapon, Royce said.
Also in California, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said an armed man barricaded himself inside a store in the Los Angeles suburb of La Crescenta on Friday afternoon and then took his own life. He had not taken any hostages inside the Verizon store, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In New Jersey, a Walmart shopper was arrested after becoming belligerent and attacking a police officer inside a store in Garfield, police said. Several officers subdued a 23-year-old suspect and took him to jail.
Officers also ticketed a 29-year-old woman who spit on another woman’s child during an argument over infant clothing at the same store, police said.
In Texas, a 22-year-old man was shot to death by police SWAT officers after he kidnapped a 19-year-old woman from a department store where she was working in Bulverde, north of San Antonio, at about 1 a.m. on Friday morning, and led police on a three-county chase that ended in a standoff.
The man took the woman, possibly his former girlfriend, hostage at gunpoint, shoved her into a stolen police car and fired shots at officers who gave chase for about 50 miles (80 kilometers), the Hays County Sheriff’s Office said.
San Marcos police were able to puncture the vehicle’s tires south of Austin and shot the suspect dead after he threatened to kill the woman and turned his weapon toward police. The extent of her injuries was unclear.