Black Friday: Pepper-spray attack adds to holiday-shopping violence
Black Friday holiday shopping got off to a violent start as officials said a woman unleashed pepper spray on fellow shoppers late Thursday night at the Wal-Mart in Porter Ranch.
In what officials called a "shopping rage," the unidentified woman, trying to as snag more discounted merchandise, attacked 20 customers, including children, minutes after the store opened at 10 p.m.
Her "competitive-shopping" strategy, used in several parts of the store, left victims with minor skin and eye irritation and sore throats, according to a Los Angeles Fire Department official.
Authorities are still searching for the woman.
Dianna Gee, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said she couldn't yet confirm the details of the incident, but "No one was seriously injured."
“Obviously it's an unfortunate situation, and we are glad everyone is OK," she said. "We are cooperating with the police by providing video or whatever information we might have to help the investigation."
Slashed prices on limited merchandise on Black Friday -– often considered the first major shopping day of the holidays -- have caused desperate acts from bargain hunters in the past.
In 2009, police shut down the Wal-Mart in Upland for more than two hours after customers began fighting inside and tearing into products that were still shrink-wrapped. The year before, a Wal-Mart worker on Long Island, N.Y. was trampled to death inside the store on Black Friday when an impatient crowd stormed the doors once they opened.
That same year, two men died in a gunfight inside a Toys R Us store that was in the throes of Black Friday in Palm Desert.
-- Tiffany Hsu and Shan Li
Photo: Customers leave a Wal-Mart in Porter Ranch after a pepper-spray incident injured a number of shoppers. Credit: Scott Harrison / Los Angeles Times