Multiple police agencies respond to fights at the Galleria (12/26/18) (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)
Multiple police agencies respond to fights at the Galleria (12/26/18) (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)

CHEEKTOWAGA – Management at the Walden Galleria was allowing stores to close early on Wednesday night after a number of fights broke out across the mall. We reached out to mall officials to confirm the reports and are waiting to hear back. The mall was supposed to be open until 10:00 pm.

 

This is after a heavy police presence was called to the mall the night after Christmas following a false report of shots fired and after multiple fights between groups of adolescents numbering in the hundreds kept officers on patrol at the mall busy.

Police stand outside the Walden Galleria after a number of fights (12/26/18) (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)
Police stand outside the Walden Galleria after a number of fights (12/26/18) (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)

Multiple agencies (including NFTA Police, State Police, Buffalo, Depew, and Border Patrol) were called to the mall to help with crowd control after 7:00 pm.  West Seneca Police covered police calls in South Cheektowaga while resources were taxed.

At the same time, there were multiple fights across different parts of the mall property. There were also reports that subjects were engaging with police officers when they were trying to break up the fights in and around the mall. There are no reports of injuries late Wednesday night.

 

Cheektowaga Police set up command post outside Walden Galleria (12/26/18)
Cheektowaga Police set up a command post outside Walden Galleria (12/26/18)

To help manage the crisis, Cheektowaga Police set up a command center outside of the DSW store to help coordinate their assistance from other agencies and response to the many incidents across the property.  Along with dispatching every call mall related incident, they also organized things like pick up spots for parents looking to gather their kids from the mall.

 

A man who was locked down in a store for a couple of hours inside the mall spoke with the Cheektowaga Chronicle. Adam Ulmer, from West Seneca, said he was returning items when, “I was walking, and all of a sudden I hear screaming. I was looking, and all of a sudden I see both aisles come barreling at me. I could hear over somebody’s voice that somebody had a gun or something. They started barreling us into – I was in Journey’s probably, for the past two and a half hours.”

He said he also heard the rumor that the sound that people thought were shots being fired were signs being knocked down by the unruly and unsupervised adolescents.

Mr. Ulmer commended the staff at Journey’s, saying their training was in place to keep staff and customers safe in emergency incidents. “As a safety thing, they were like ‘get in the back of the store’ they were like stuffing us in the back of the store to be safe in case of what’s going on. That’s kind of where we huddled for a while.”

“Before we walked out of here, I’ve never been so scared to be in this place in my life.” Mr. Ulmer said, before talking about security. He thinks there should be more security presence at the mall to prevent situations from escalating out of control. In the meantime, this incident will have an effect on him. “I don’t plan on coming back here for a while. I can tell you that.”

The NFTA was working to bring in buses to get the hundreds of teenagers involved in these incidents off of the property. Officers are making sure the teenagers are getting off of the property and not just walking away and around the mall. The buses are even being escorted into Buffalo by NFTA officers according to police radio transmissions.

NFTA buses brought in to clear out fighting teens from Walden Galleria (12/26/18) (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)
NFTA buses brought in to clear out fighting teens from Walden Galleria (12/26/18) (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)

As of 8:35 pm, scanner reports from Cheektowaga Police said that bus service to the mall was canceled for the rest of the night. There were a few dozen people still waiting at the bus stop. There are unconfirmed reports that fights and issues that were happening at the Galleria were carried on downtown to the Utica Street station and needed to be taken care of before service could resume.

An NFTA spokesperson said service was shut down for around an hour during the time of the incident and was back operational late Wednesday night.

Michael Sliwinski, Assistant Chief of the Cheektowaga Police says officers responded to the mall to investigate calls for fights and disorderly youths starting around 6:31 pm.  While officers assigned to a mall detail were handling the fights, a call of shots fired was reported to police around 7:29 pm.

“This report turned out to be false and was attributed to a metal sign that was knocked over by the youths running the concourse,” Mr. Sliwinski said in an emailed statement.  “Upon seeing the large group of disorderly youths engaged in fights, many stores began to close their security gates and enacted [a] “lockdown” to prevent issues within their stores. Several stores reopened at 8:30 pm.”

Police arrested two people.  Their identities have not been released late Wednesday.  Charges include Disorderly Conduct and a second arrest for Menacing.  The police had no reports of injuries at 10:30 pm.

Further information will be made available Thursday.

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