Some 400 to 500 kids showed up at Southcenter, then ran out of the mall together, leading some people to mistakenly think there had been a shooting, police said.
Police were investigating an incident at Southcenter mall Saturday afternoon in which hundreds of kids who had come to see a Seattle-born teen celebrity ran from the premises amid rumors of a shooting.
Tukwila police public information officer Victor Masters said the YouTuber “encouraged a large group of kids to show up and told them ‘let’s get kicked out.’ ”
The rush of kids running out of the mall, some yelling that there had been a shooting and knocking over chairs, caused alarm among mall-goers, though there were no injuries or reports of damage, Masters said. “We had a lot of families, shoppers and employees who were terrified,” Masters said. “It definitely added to the chaos.”
Masters said Sunday afternoon that the department’s major crimes unit would be reviewing evidence early this week. No arrests had been made, “but depending on the investigation there may be charges filed related to it,” he said.
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The YouTuber is 18-year-old Deshae Frost, who attended Washington Middle School in Seattle and now lives in the Los Angeles area. He has a million followers on Instagram — where he posted an apology Saturday night — and more than a million subscribers to his YouTube channel, where he posts videos of himself doing stand-up comedy, just talking or organizing competitions to win “merch.” He has also appeared in small roles in several TV shows.
On YouTube, Frost had posted that he would have a “Meet and Greet” at the mall.
Masters said police had seen video of Frost in a car at the mall. “He was in the parking lot in the west lot near Nordstrom for sure,” Masters said.
Police had not seen videos of Frost inside the mall, Masters said, though he did post video of people running.
In an Instagram post overnight, Frost wrote, “I held that meet and greet to interact with y’all and when it got overwhelming I got scared of my life because I’m new to this and I’m only so much of a human being and started running to leave”.
Whether or not Frost was there, a “giant mess of kids” were, mostly without any adults, Masters said. “They ran out the west doors, shouting, then ran back in.” He said some of the kids were reported as screaming about a shooter.
Some stores, including Uniqlo, responded by pulling down their gates and asking shoppers to move away from the windows to the back of the store as a precaution.
“There was no shooting. This was essentially a flash mob,” said Masters.
Eventually police controlled the crowd and three announcements were made over the mall loudspeakers: “There’s been a fabricated incident due to a YouTube celebrity trying to cause a panic. Security and management are working together to contain the situation. Please remain calm.”
Masters said police were told Frost had posted on Instagram a message saying “Let’s show up at the mall at 5. Let’s get kicked out.”
There was no sign of that posting later in the evening, but Frost posted a video of TV coverage from the mall and some commenters attacked him for causing the panic and accused him of having encouraged people to get kicked out.
Masters said that when word first spread of a possible shooting, police from Tukwila were joined by King County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Des Moines and Renton police.
“We are investigating and trying to figure out if there are potential criminal charges we can bring for [Frost’s] actions,” said Masters.
Less than a month ago, there was a report of a shooter at the mall that also turned out to be false.
Seattle Times video editor Ramon Dompor contributed to this report.