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Release of new Air Jordans sparks unruly crowds

By Stephen Ceasar, Los Angeles Times

Not even the holiday spirit could overcome the frenzied demand for Nike Air Jordans on Friday. A release of one model of the popular basketball shoe caused ruckuses at stores across the country on Friday, with rowdy crowds breaking into fights and, in at least one city, ramming down doors to purchase the shoes.

In Jersey City, N.J., a 20-year-old man was stabbed seven times amid a crowd of about 300 people waiting to buy the shoes, a local newspaper reported.

In Vallejo, Calif., police said one person fired a shot at a mall as about 1,000 people lined up for their chance at the shoes; a suspect was arrested.

Near Seattle, police resorted to pepper spray to control fighting among would-be Air Jordan owners. Potential customers began gathering at midnight at four stores inside a suburban mall and eventually — as the 4 a.m. opening neared — the crowd grew to about 2,000, said Mike Murphy, a Tukwila Police Department spokesman.

The department only had two officers on hand, however. “We were expecting a small crowd,” Murphy told the Los Angeles Times. “But nothing on the scale that we got.”

As shoppers jostled for position, a few fights erupted. The officers who were there called for back-up and used pepper spray to quell the fights.

“The officers were too outnumbered to break it up on a one to one basis,” Murphy said. “The pepper spray worked.”

In Atlanta, officers arrested four shoppers after a crowd broke down doors leading to a store that was selling the shoes. Also in that city, police broke a car window to remove two toddlers after a woman left them unattended so she could try to buy the shoes, the Associated Press reported.

In Annapolis, Md., authorities dispersed a crowd of 500 shoppers at the Westfield Annapolis Mall after they refused orders by police to stay in their cars until the stores opened at 6 a.m. Mall officials canceled the early opening and told shoppers to return during normal business hours, The Baltimore Sun reported.

Scuffles or unruliness among shoppers were also reported in Indianapolis, San Antonio, Charlotte, N.C., and Richmond, Va., resulting in several arrests and injuries.

Air Jordans have long been the subject of fierce competition among shoppers, especially in the mid- to late-80s after the line was first released. But the agressive nature of the demand appeared to have waned.

This year, it was back.

The model released this week — the Nike Air Jordan XI — was first released in 1995; Michael Jordan wore it in his return to the NBA after a brief retirement to play minor league baseball. The XI, a favorite among collectors known as “sneakerheads,” features patent leather and a translucent sole.

The shoe released this week — which cost about $180 — features a purple accent on the sole, hence its name “Concord.”

In Los Angeles, shoe enthusiasts quickly cleaned out the stock at the All Pro Athletic Shoes store, said manager Shirley Yu.

Yu said that new Air Jordan styles always sell well, especially around the holidays. This time, the store let a few loyal customers know beforehand that the shoes were in stock.

“We sold out in 10 minutes,” Yu said. “We are a very small store and only got about 18 pairs. Those were gone in 10.”

By Friday afternoon, scores of pairs were available for bidding on eBay, some for more than $500.

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