The Tempe Police Department and Arizona Mills Mall security say disruptive teenagers are behind the disturbance that closed the mall in Tempe on Monday evening.
A Tempe officer asked a 16-year-old boy to leave the mall and threatened to arrest him, a police spokesperson said. The suspect allegedly threw a pretzel at one security guard, and became aggressive with a police officer.
He was charged with aggravated assault on an officer, resisting arrest, trespassing and disorderly conduct.
After the first teen was placed in custody, a large group was told to disperse for being disruptive. During that incident, a 15-year-old boy refused to obey and instead pushed an officer, a police spokesperson said.
He attempted to run, but shortly after was arrested for aggravated assault on an officer and disorderly conduct.
During the chaotic scene, a person threw a chair in the nearby food court, causing it to make a very loud, echoing noise. It’s believed that mall patrons may have mistaken the sound for a gunshot.
A third teenage girl was arrested for allegedly refusing to leave and hitting an officer's shoulder. She is charged with aggravated assault on an officer and trespassing.
The teen's mother, Dana Strickland, says she's filing a claim against the City of Tempe alleging that her daughter was harassed by the officer.
Strickland said her and her daughter briefly split up at the mall to go to separate stores. Shortly after, she received a frantic call from her daughter who explained that police were forcing her to leave the building.
The mother accused police of holding her daughter down and placing her in custody.
In a video recorded by the girl's friends, the teen is heard saying, "My mother is here, what are you doing?"
According to Tempe police spokesperson Lily Duran the girl was repeatedly told that she was trespassing.
"This was a person identified by mall security as being very disruptive, getting the crowd going, being very vocal, belligerent; getting riled up," Duran said.
Strickland said she arrived to find her daughter being detained. When she attempted to explain who she was, she was ignored by officers.
"They need to handle their jobs a little more professionally — especially with teenagers," Strickland said. "They need to be more sensitive with teenagers especially in this time."
Now, the mother is pushing for additional police training when it comes to African American youth.
One of the three teens has been in trouble with mall security in the past. However, the trio is known to hang out at the mall.
According to Tempe police, the disturbance is not related to the string of incidents at malls reported the day after Christmas.