TUKWILA, Wash. -- Police officers swarmed Tukwila's Southcenter Mall Saturday evening after a large group of teens and young adults began running for the exits, prompting fears that a shooting or some other dangerous event was under way.
No shots were fired and no one was hurt.
Instead, Tukwila Police are investigating whether a self-proclaimed teen YouTube star is responsible for inviting the mob of teens to start the chaos.
The Law Office of Cleodis Floyd released the following statement:
My client Deshae Frost is a popular social media influencer with millions of followers. Part of what makes him so popular is his ability to engage with fans. Like other influencers, Mr. Frost has held successful meet and greets in shopping malls across the United States. As promised, Mr. Frost showed up yesterday to Southcenter Mall for a meet and greet which was larger than expected. As the crowed continued to grow and intensify, Mr. Frost quickly left Southcenter Mall as he began to fear for his own safety. To be clear, it was never his intent to incite a riot. He is deeply disturbed by some of the rumors associated with his meet and greet. Mr. Frost does not condone violence and he is sympathetic to anyone affected by yesterday’s events.
Detectives believe the YouTuber invited his followers to the mall on social media. The ensuing rush of teens created a sense of panic.
"A large group fled out the doors all at the same time causing alarm to passerby's and employees," Tukwila Police wrote on Facebook. "The group has dispersed."
Some stores closed their gates when they saw the large group of kids running, police said.
"A large group of people just started running towards us screaming trying to exit the mall so we just ran with them and stood outside the restaurant and waited to find out what was going on," said Bryce West. "There was a lot of people outside saying they had seen someone pull out a gun, but people were responding as if there was a gun threat... I just did what I've been taught to do which is if you're in a mall and you see a crowd running and screaming, you run too."
Making matters worse, some parents were on Tukwila Police's Facebook page claiming that some of the kids were yelling there was a shooter. Tukwila police responded on one post "yes kids causing panic. That is why we had the large police presence until we could figure out what was going on."
Police say the YouTuber did not have a permit for an event or ask permission from the mall.
"A lot of people on YouTube are just trying to get attention with the mindset, any publicity is good publicity," West said.
If investigators determine the panic was caused intentionally then charges could be filed.