A canceled release of a $220, limited edition Nike Foamposite Galaxy shoe led to a near-riot at the Florida Mall early Friday morning, along with one arrest.
Deputies said they arrived at the scene in riot gear to control the unruly crowd, who became upset over the cancellation of the shoe's release.
Foot Locker store employees told WFTV that only 1,200 pairs of the shoes were to be sold nationwide. They said the store at the Florida Mall was supposed to sell 200 pairs in a joint event with Nike that was timed for the NBA All-Star Game weekend in Orlando.
According to Nike's website, the $220 shoes are part of the Nike All-Star collection and are inspired by Orlando's "legacy of space exploration." The resale value for the limited-edition shoes is estimated at 10 times the retail price.
WFTV looked online and found the shoes being sold for $2,500.
Foot Locker released the following statement at 1:30 a.m. Friday on its Foot Locker Unlocked Blog:
"Due to safety concerns, we are canceling the All-Star releases this weekend (product list below) at the following Foot Locker House of Hoops stores: Florida Mall, Pembroke Mall, University Mall in Tampa, Southlake Mall and PG Plaza. Our priority is the safety of the community. Thank you for your understanding."
At about 10 a.m. on Friday, Foot Locker employees started letting small groups of people in, but they are not selling the sneakers.
People started gathering around 10 p.m. Thursday, packing the mall's parking lot in hopes of buying the new shoe at the midnight release.
The crowd became angry when they found out the event had been canceled and as tempers started to flare, law enforcement officers working the event called for backup.
Witnesses said the crowd was asked to wait across the street when the mall closed, but people began dashing across the road toward the Foot Locker store.
Some people rushed one deputy who was holding a shotgun.
"People tried running over the cops; people tried just getting into that line," said eyewitness Youssef Abounouadar. "Everyone ran to the door and it started getting really hectic."
He said he was worried people were going to start breaking down windows to steal the shoes from the display. He had been waiting in line since 8 a.m. on Thursday.
"I kind of put aside money. I'm sure a lot of people did, with it being tax time, I'm sure people put money aside for the shoes," said shopper Jerome Hill.
Deputies lined up in front of the store, armed with shields, batons and tear gas. They even sent in a mounted patrol and a helicopter to monitor the crowds. Officers then blocked off the parking lot with their cruisers.
"We did expect a large turnout, so our deputies were prepared," said Ginette Rodriguez, of the Orange County Sheriff's Office. "It was done as a precaution, just as a safety measure, basically to keep everybody safe."
The incident started with 15 deputies and ended with 120 officers at the scene.
"The deputies here saw it, recognized it and realized it was far too much for them to handle," said Jeff Williamson of the Orange County Sheriff's Office.
Deputies were able to push the crowds back and many people dispersed, leaving the parking lot. But the crowds started gathering for a second time around 6:30 a.m. and began surrounding deputies and the store.
"Is it worth that for a pair of sneakers?" WFTV reporter Tim Barber asked.
"Yeah, they're nice," said shopper Cristian Gonzalez.
Deputies were able to calm the crowds again. They put up caution tape and barriers around the store's entrance.
Even though Foot Locker employees told shoppers the shoe is not going to be sold on Friday, many people told WFTV they didn't believe that.
"They had to be doing something because there were people over there. They had to be selling something, so we had to stay," Gonzalez said.
Officials said they made one arrest and there were no injuries.
Meanwhile, the shoe's release was also called off at a mall in Tampa.
Deputies in Hillsborough County said nearly 1,000 people were lined up outside the University Mall late Thursday night.
However, unlike in Orlando, the large crowd in Tampa remained relatively calm.
Mall officials said they respect Nike's decision to cancel the release because of crowd safety concerns.
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