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Black Friday Violence: Police and retailers prepare for crowds and chaos

"Chaos" was how one witness described the scene at a Black Friday opening at a Walmart store in Porter Ranch, Calif., when one woman used pepper spray against other shoppers. Twenty people were hurt. KCBS

"Chaos" was how one witness described the scene at a Black Friday opening at a Walmart store in Porter Ranch, Calif., when one woman used pepper spray against other shoppers. Twenty people were hurt.
KCBS

(CBS) - So-called "Black Friday" sales may be catnip for some holiday shoppers, but in recent years they've also become scenes of bizarre - and in some places deadly - violence.

PICTURES: Black Friday sales gone bad

From an employee crushed to death in front of a New York Walmart in 2008, to a California woman who doused fellow Walmart shoppers with pepper spray last year, mayhem seems to have become part of getting that coveted bargain before anyone else.

"I would advise going shopping some other time if there are long lines and it looks like it's going to be a mob scene," says Susan Grant, the director of consumer protection for the Consumer Federation of America.

According to Richard Mellor, the vice president for loss prevention at the National Retail Federation, stores around the nation are considering ways to mitigate such violence, including having customers line up inside the store to keep the mad rush for the door to a minimum.

"Arguing seems to center around who was in place first," says Mellor, so tickets or colored wristbands indicating, for example, the first 50 people in line, could help control frustration.

Mellor says that retailers will also strategically place the most popular items in locations throughout the store that have easy access for crowds and proximity to cashiers.

Target stores will have security in parking lots before the stores open and plan to maintain a 10-foot "buffer" between the beginning of the line outside and the front doors, according to spokesman Evan Miller.

Officer James Imperiale of New York's Nassau County Police told Crimesider that the department "pays special attention" to the malls during the holiday season, and has met with retailers to advise them on how to best handle large groups of shoppers. Imperiale said the department, as always, will be on-call for issues of Black Friday violence or chaos, but will not specifically station police at large retailers.

In San Leandro, Calif.  - where a man was shot in the neck outside a Walmart on last year's Black Friday  - Lt. Randy Brandt of the San Leandro police says that officers will be stationed at big retailers planning overnight Black Friday events to help with any problems.

And at the Porter Ranch, Calif. Walmart  where Elizabeth Macias pepper sprayed fellow shoppers in 2011, local media reports that this year the store has hired 27 additional security guards, including four carrying guns.

Violence on Black Friday

2011:

Porter Ranch, Calif. - 32-year-old Elizabeth Macias used pepper spray on fellow Walmart shoppers, injuring 20 people. Macias later turned herself in but has yet to face charges. According to the Los Angeles Times, police are unsure whether she used the pepper spray in an attempt to grab a discounted Xbox console, or in self-defense.

New York City: Crowds waiting to get inside a Hollister store busted through the locked doors and began looting around 1:15 a.m., according to the New York Post.

San Leandro, Calif.: 21-year-old Christopher Murillo was shot in the neck in the parking lot outside Walmart at about 1:55 a.m. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the incident was an attempted robbery.

Myrtle Beach, S.C. - A 55-year-old woman was shot in the leg during an armed robbery at about 1:12 a.m. outside Walmart, reported CBS affiliate WSPA.

2010:

Buffalo, N.Y.: Keith Krantz, 28, was injured when he was trampled by a mob trying to get inside a Target store just after doors opened at 4 a.m.

2008:

Valley Stream, N.Y.: Jdimytai Damour, a 34-year-old Walmart employee, was trampled to death when a crowd waiting outside broke through the doors to the store just before 5 a.m.

Palm Desert, Calif.: Two men shot and killed each other inside a Toys R' Us after what was reportedly an argument involving the women they were with. According to the Los Angeles Times, police do not believe the incident was connected to Black Friday deals, but rather a personal dispute.

  • Julia Dahl

    Julia Dahl writes about crime and justice for CBSNews.com

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