ORLANDO, Fla. - An argument over a refund at the A&W in the Florida Mall food court started the fight that caused a panic after shoppers believed they heard gunshots, according to an arrest report.
Witnesses told deputies Anthony Manuel, 55, was arguing animatedly with employees at the A&W and approached the counter multiple times demanding a refund, the report states.
As Manuel's wife tried to pull him away from the counter, 39-year-old Jenny Ochoa approached the man to try to keep the situation from escalating, the report states.
Surveillance video shows Ochoa slapping Manuel, who then punches her in the face, causing her to fall to the floor.
Manuel left the area, and Ochoa tried to throw a chair as she got back up, the video shows.
Shortly thereafter, panic broke out in the mall and crowds of people fled and sought shelter, believing they heard gunshots.
Deputies attributed the sound to chairs being thrown in the food court. In the ensuing chaos, one person had a seizure, deputies said.
Orange County Fire Rescue dispatched at least five ambulances to the mall.
Firefighters evaluated 18 people for minor injuries, taking eight to area hospitals.
Both Manuel and Ochoa are facing battery and disorderly conduct charges, according to the Sheriff's Office.
JUST IN: @OrangeCoSheriff says the man and woman who fought and prompted the police presence at Florida Mall will be charged with disorderly conduct and battery. More details at 10pm on #TV27. @WFTV #WFTV pic.twitter.com/rQoDWc6pVd— Megan Cruz (@MeganWFTV) December 30, 2018
MCI- 8001 S Orange Blossom Trial: Orange County Fire Rescue evaluating 15 people for minor injuries at Florida Mall following an altercation in the food court. At this time, 5 individuals have been transported to area hospitals. @OrangeCoSheriff also on scene investigating.— OCFire Rescue (@OCFireRescue) December 29, 2018
UPDATE: No shots fired at The Florida Mall. Investigation indicate a large fight inside the food court. Deputies are restoring order within the mall. Deputies have the individuals involved in custody.— Orange County Sheriff's Office (@OrangeCoSheriff) December 29, 2018
I was walking through the Florida Mall about 20 minutes ago when everyone started running for the exits. Lots of sheriff’s deputies here now outside Macy’s #WFTV— Michael Lopardi (@MLopardiWFTV) December 29, 2018
This is not the first time a loud noise in the food court led shoppers at the Florida Mall to believe there was a shooting, prompting a panic.
Deputies said mall management scheduled a fire suppression system test at the new hot dog kiosk.
The test is an industry-standard test and was done through a contracted vendor.
The hot dog stand has since closed.
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