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BREAKING NEWS — Five People Taken to Hospital After Pepper Spray Incident at Ballston Common Mall

by ARLnow.com October 5, 2010 at 12:39 pm 4,491 43 Comments

(Updated at 2:30 p.m.) Customers fled Ballston Common Mall just after noon today after a shoplifter sprayed pepper spray while making a getaway.

The woman swiped merchandise from the Payless shoe store on the second level of the mall, according to police spokesperson Det. Crystal Nosal. As she was running to the escalator, she sprayed pepper spray at a manager who was chasing after her.

The substance caused numerous people in the mall to develop symptoms that included difficulty breathing and burning eyes.

Firefighters set up a triage area outside the mall. A dozen people were treated and five people were brought to the hospital, including the store manager, Nosal said. They’re expected to be fine.

Witnesses described a foul odor in the mall shortly after the incident.

“There was a smell, a funny smell, and people were coming through [the hall] coughing and gagging,” said Danielle Davis, who works in the mall building. “Once I saw that… I turned around.”

The woman got away and is still at large. Police will be reviewing surveillance footage in an attempt to identify her.

A fire department spokesperson initially said the mall was evacuated during the incident. Nosal said everyone who left the mall did so on their own volition.

Update at 3:25 p.m. — Police describe the suspect as “an African American female, medium height, mid-length dark hair, red shiny puffy jacket, tight light colored pants, and white shoes.”

  • Crabhands

    Stealing is wrong no question about it.
    But, chasing someone over a pair of shoes and risking who knows what: dumb.

    • RestonRunner86

      Yes. Let’s just permit anyone and everyone to take whatever they darn well please from anywhere. Laws were meant to be broken, right? I knew it wouldn’t take long for someone to blame the store manager here instead of the assailant. The policy at my former employer, a nationally-known retailer, was to NOT confront shoplifters. I can’t tell you how many people walked right on out stealing things from us. Guess what? Stores don’t “eat” those costs. They raise their prices, so EVERYONE pays more to make up for lost revenues due to theft. I hope you won’t mind paying more for your next pair of shoes at Macy’s.

      • Crabhands

        “RestonRunner86:
        October 5, 2010 at 1:42 pm
        Yes. Let’s just permit anyone and everyone to take whatever they darn well please from anywhere. Laws were meant to be broken, right? I knew it wouldn’t take long for someone to blame the store manager here instead of the assailant. The policy at my former employer, a nationally-known retailer, was to NOT confront shoplifters. I can’t tell you how many people walked right on out stealing things from us. Guess what? Stores don’t “eat” those costs. They raise their prices, so EVERYONE pays more to make up for lost revenues due to theft. I hope you won’t mind paying more for your next pair of shoes at Macy’s.”

        Yes, that is exactly what I said: Please everyone steal as much as you please! Holy crap you are as dumb as that manager for your obvious lack of reading comprehension.

        What do you imagine it will cost the company to deal with this guys medical bills? More or less than that pair of shoes? Did the manager have any other options for trying to reduce theft than chasing after a running shoplifter? See, sometimes it takes thinking about things a different way to realize a better solution.

        • RestonRunner86

          Why was that manager “dumb?” Also, my intelligence quotient is actually superior to many, thank you very much. I just don’t believe in letting the “bad guy” win, and I don’t seem to comprehend why you claim she should NOT have been pursued.

    • Arlingtonian

      The dumb person here is the shoplifter, not the manager. Let’s blame the assailant, not the victim.

      • Crabhands

        “Let’s blame the assailant, not the victim.”

        Completely agree. The assailant was in the wrong and must be punished. But let us also ask this: did the “victim” make the situation better or worse with their actions? Did they calm the situation or cause it to be worse?

        • Arlingtonian

          The assailant made the situation worse by spraying mace everywhere. The manager didn’t cause the assailant to do that. The manager didn’t make the situation better or worse. The assailant did.

          • Crabhands

            You really think the stupid assailant would have sprayed if the person wasn’t being chased? (Chased against company policy and common sense.)

            Come on. Don’t act dense.

          • Arlingtonian

            I think the manager wouldn’t have chased the stupid assailant to begin with if the stupid assailant hadn’t decided to grab some shoes and take off.

  • I just drove by this – there are so many firetrucks and police cars with lights on. Wilson Blvd was moving slowly.

  • Yoyogrrrl

    That’s a pretty quick judgment there, Crabby. What’s the alternative? Open the door for them to leave? It wasn’t dumb. Don’t blame the victim for doing the right thing.

    • BrownFlipFlops

      I agree, Yoyogrrrl. I admire the manager for not being totally passive in the face of a crime that happens way to much at Ballston and Pentagon City. He or she accepted some risk of the unknown, but is to be commended for taking action.

      The person who caused all this trouble is the shoplifter who decided to spray mace in a mall.

      • BrownFlipFlops

        …or “too much.” /grammarnazi’ed

    • el fat kid

      agreed…

    • Crabhands

      “That’s a pretty quick judgment there, Crabby. What’s the alternative? Open the door for them to leave? It wasn’t dumb. Don’t blame the victim for doing the right thing.”

      That the victim did the “right thing” is up for debate here. Calling the cops, giving a description of the suspect, and alerting the mall security is probably what the victim has been instructed to do. Not to chase after suspected shoplifters.
      And yes, I did write that we should open the doors and let them leave. And don’t forget to say “Have a nice day!” /sarcasm
      Your reading comprehension score: Fail.

      • el fat kid

        wah, wah… somebody’s a wuss. take life by the horns.

  • Mikeyl

    Hope those shoes were worth it shoplifter. 😛

  • LP

    Ballston mall needs to be leveled, this is just another reason to do so.

    • Lou

      Yes, that is certainly a logical conclusion that you have arrived at.

      The BOA across the street has been robbed several times. Should we level the NSF building while we’re at it?

      • LP

        Lou-

        The robbery today isn’t why I say that the mall should be leveled, it’s just another reason on top of many. I’m pretty sure the majority of people would be in agreement that Ballston mall is lacking in almost every offering (except for the movie theater).

        It’s a low class mall, with low class stores that doesn’t fit the area or demographic and that’s apparent from the establishments in the mall.

        • LP

          don’t*, not doesn’t – Grammar fix.

          • Lou

            CVS, Macy’s, the Commuter Store, Champs, VS, dry cleaner, barber shop, health club, Hallmark store, eyeglass store, various bars and restaurants. These don’t fit the demographic? Or do you just object to the form of the mall?

          • Lou

            It even has a Panera! That seems to be the gold seal for modern smart developments.

          • Skeptical

            Panera: greasy “designer” food and counter help who can’t understand you don’t want sugar dumped in your iced tea. After eating at two different ones, same bad experience, I bagged it. Ballston CVS: chaotic, bad sight lines, long wait at the cashier. I’d go anywhere else to do that kind of business.

            The place is full of shops selling just one kind of thing or stuff so overpriced for tacky quality that I haven’t found any reason to go there in years except to hop the Metro.

            Leveling it might be extreme but there has to be a better use for that much real estate.

        • Clarendon

          It’s an odd collection of stuff for sure. Always seems pretty busy when I’m in there which I admit isn’t very often. My 10 yo niece had a birthday party at the Comedy Spot and the girls all seemed to enjoy it.

          http://comedyindc.com/

        • reader

          Completely agreed. While there may be some worthwhile establishments (Panera, Macy’s, CHIK-FIL-A) the majority of those stores don’t seem like they’ve made a sale in the past few weeks, maybe months. I have no idea how they stay in business. I workout at Sport & Health so I pass through the mall each morning. I have never seen one person in “Shavers ‘N More” in about 5 months. Bring in some quality establishments or find another use for that real estate.

          • Lou

            I could be wrong, but I believe Macy’s owns the entire mall. As long as their anchor stores are doing OK, and with Kettler bringing in people for all the hockey activities, I don’t expect that property to change substantially any time soon.

    • RestonRunner86

      The era of indoor shopping malls in dense urban environments has indeed passed. The Steamtown Mall in my hometown of Scranton, PA now has a roughly 30% vacancy rate as it has been fleeced by a newer open-air “lifestyle center” nearby.

      • LP

        Agreed, look at Reston Town Center, the new town center that’s being constructed in Merrifield.

      • ballston

        BOYCOTT THE STEAMTOWN MALL!!!!

        • Nick

          You receive one SchruteBuck.

  • Tim

    I bet Macy’s is going to say that the manager didn’t have authorization to chase after the suspect, so they won’t pay his treatment costs. In fact, they might fire him for it.

    • FYI: Initial report was Macy’s. Police are now telling me it was Payless. Sorry for the confusion.

      • el fat kid

        hah. someone robbed the payless? sounds like some kinda 5th grade joke…

        ‘yo mama ‘s so stupid she robbed the payless’

        i guess it’s not really a joke anymore when someone’s mama is that stupid.

        • SD

          WTOP is still saying it was Macy’s.

          I was thinking the SAME thing- WHY rob Payless on the second floor when you could get name brand shoes at Macy’s which has an exit right to the outside. Stupid criminals.

          • Lou

            I think all of Macy’s shoes are on the ground level though. And right by the doors to Wilson. Seems odd that someone would steal shoes from Macy’s and end up on one of the upper mall levels.

  • Hopefully Helpful

    I’m not sure if this is a link but – the exact same sequence of events happened at a For Eyes in downtown DC last week on G Street. I had an eye exam scheduled however the store had to be shut down due to a shoplifter who sprayed pepper spray at a security guard who walked towards them. I wonder if this could be the same thief, or a related incident.

  • Diana McColgan

    I arrived at the mall right after this happened. A female security guard was in front of me as I entered the mall. Immediately, I was overcome by the smell and began coughing. I asked the security guard what happened and she said someone let off mace/pepper spray. Some people around me were running out of the mall and others just kept walking in the mall. I asked the security guard “shouldn’t you evacuate or STOP letting people walk through that door?? She ignored me. When I walked out of the mall into the garage to catch my breath I ran into another guard and asked the same question and he said “no”. The news states the mall was evacuated. That is NOT correct. Some of the stores put their gates down only because they could no longer stay in the store because of the fumes. At the very least they should have not continued to let people come into the mall or at the very least that area. God forbid if anything worse were to happen in that mall…..I would hate to see how they handle the situation because this was poorly handled.

    • Arlington2010

      Whatever happened to personal responsibility?

      You should have turned around and left as soon as you walked in and noticed it didn’t smell right.

      You need someone to tell you that?

  • Captain Krunchy

    For a mall that probably has at most 3 or 4 security guards working at max, it would be kinda hard to 1) evacuate the people in every nook & corner of that mall, and 2) secure the probably 20-30 (rough guess) possible entrances…. in addition to the obvious doors, you have street level entrances to many of the stores, a multi-deck parking garage, etc etc etc…. Arlington2010 points out the obvious. If you need a mall guard to make decisions for you, please don’t ever vote again.

  • Anthony

    This mall needs a makeover. Always lots of people, but few walking around with shopping bags. I can’t see how stores in there can be profitable.

  • SupaHappyFunKat

    Stealing cheap shoes from Payless? That’s a very dumb shoplifter.

  • Hopefully this person will be charged for each individual that was effected by the pepper spray. Pepper spray is meant to be used as a self defense product not a weapon!

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