NEW YORK (Reuters) - The holiday shopping season got off to an ugly start as a shopper pepper-sprayed rivals in a battle for bargains and robbers shot shoppers to steal their Black Friday purchases, police said on Friday.
Up to 20 people were injured after a shopper used pepper spray in California to get an edge on rivals and in a second incident, off-duty officers in North Carolina used pepper spray to subdue rowdy shoppers waiting for consumer electronics.
In San Leandro, California, a man was in critical but stable condition after being shot by robbers in a parking lot outside a Walmart at 1:50 a.m. local time, Sergeant Mike Sobek said.
The man was in a group of men headed for their car after shopping when robbers confronted them and a fight ensued, Sobek said. The man's shopping companions held down one of the robbers until police arrived and took him into custody.
"It doesn't look like they got away with anything. They weren't expecting these guys to fight back," Sobek said.
In Los Angeles, authorities were reviewing security tapes to track down a Hispanic woman in her 30s who pepper-sprayed a crowd at a Walmart as customers swarmed for Xboxes on sale late Thursday, Los Angeles police Sergeant J. Valle said.
"They were opening a package to try to get some Xboxes from a crate and this lady pepper-sprayed a whole bunch of people in order to gain an advantage over the Xboxes," Valle said.
Firefighters treated and released up to 20 people injured in the incident at a Walmart in Northridge, California, authorities said. It was not known whether the woman actually purchased the Xboxes, Valle said.
Off-duty police officers working as security for a Walmart in Kinston, North Carolina, used pepper spray to keep shoppers at bay who were anxious for the midnight Thursday start of an electronics sale, authorities said.
The already "rowdy" atmosphere intensified when employees began to bring out palettes of electronics merchandise, Kinston director of public safety Bill Johnson said.
When customers tried to grab merchandise from the palettes before the sale time, the off-duty officers, who were hired as store security guards for the event, discharged pepper spray to restore order, Johnson said. One man was arrested for failing to follow officers' orders, he said.