From Pepper Spray to Handguns: Black Friday Gets Violent

Black Friday isn’t for the faint of heart. Reports of violence and pepper spray from shoppers across the nation leave many wondering, is it worth it?

In Los Angeles Thursday, a woman shot pepper spray at fellow customers to keep them away from merchandise she had her eye on. Authorities report the incident happened around 10:30 last night at a San Fernando Valley Walmart.

"Somehow she was trying to use it (pepper spray) to gain an upper hand," police Lt. Abel Parga told The Associated Press early Friday.

Witness Matthew Lopez was at the scene and described it to the LA Times. He said when the signal to start Black Friday went off at 10 p.m. shoppers took off in search of discount items. "I heard screaming and I heard yelling," said Lopez. "Moments later, my throat stung. I was coughing really bad and watering up."

By the time he arrived at the video game section, the display had been torn down. Employees tried to hold back shoppers, but customers trampled the video games and DVDs that had fallen on the floor. "It was absolutely crazy," he said.

Almost 20 people suffered minor injuries from the spray and police are still looking for the woman.

Pastor Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., was shocked to hear of numerous Black Friday incidents. "I could hardly believe the stories," he wrote in an email to his congregation. "People are out of control – getting into shouting matches and fistfights just to buy consumer items that are nowhere close to necessities. What craziness!"

In California’s Bay Area, a Black Friday shooting victim remains in critical, but stable, condition. The victim, and a few of his fellow shoppers were outside in the parking lot of a store around 1 a.m. when a car full of people pulled up demanding they hand over their merchandise. When the shoppers refused, a suspect opened fire on them.

Sgt. Mike Sobek of the San Leandro Police Department told the LA Times that the shoppers who were not wounded detained one of the suspects for police. The incident is still under investigation.

Meanwhile, on the East coast, a woman was shot in the foot after being robbed at a Walmart in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The shooter also struck the woman’s son with the gun and he had to get staples in his head for the injury. The woman is scheduled to have surgery on her foot this afternoon.

Pepper spray and guns weren’t the only weapons used on Black Friday. Fist fights also broke out over merchandise. In Rome, N.Y., some shoppers at Walmart were pushed to the ground in the electronics department and fights broke out over the products. Two shoppers were taken to the hospital and one man was arrested for disorderly conduct.

At a Walmart in Kissimmee, Fla., a man was arrested for getting into a fight at the jewelry counter. He was charged with Resisting Officers without Violence and taken to jail.

Regardless of crowds and violence, the National Retail Federation reported “up to 152 million people plan to shop Black Friday weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), higher than the 138 million people who planned to do so last year.”

Black Friday officially begins the Christmas shopping season. The name originated in Philadelphia to describe the heavy traffic that would occur the day after Thanksgiving, but the use of the word reached a national level around 1975. Now it is used to indicate when retailers are “in the black,” or turning a profit.

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