Police, deputies use tear gas to disperse ‘rioters and looters’ at University Mall in Tampa

Local News

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Tampa police and Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputies used tear gas canisters to try and disperse crowds at University Square Mall on Fowler Avenue late Saturday night. About 300 people were protesting in the parking lot.

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said that the people at the mall were no longer considered protesters, “they are now rioters and looters.”

Just before 1 a.m. Sunday, the Champs Sports on East Fowler Avenue had flames shooting out of the roof before it collapsed. People were seen carrying shoes out of the store. There are boxes all over the parking lot.

An HCSO deputy was taken to a local hospital after being hit in the back of the head with a brick at the mall. (Read More) News Channel 8 reported that fireworks and tear gas canisters were being thrown back at officers and deputies who were lined up outside the mall.

HCSO deputies arrested three protesters. One person had a gun, Chronister said. Tampa Police also made multiple arrests in relation to looting and vandalism that took place along Busch Boulevard Saturday night.

Several were arrested for looting businesses including the CVS, AT&T, and Cricket stores. A fire was set, and quickly extinguished at the Mobil station on the corner. (Read More) And the Gold N Diamonds store on Fowler Avenue was also looted. Managers said at least $100,000 worth of fine jewelry was stolen.

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WFLA Now live video at about 11:20 p.m. showed people throwing objects, including glass and bottles, at the K&G Fashion Superstore at University Square Mall. There were at least a half-dozen officers inside the store trying to keep others out. An armored vehicle was used to block parts of the mall.

Chronister said deputies and police worked throughout the night to push the crowd back as they were becoming violent. He said people were throwing rocks and bottles at officers. Chronister also said that some people tried to break windows and get into the mall but deputies were able to push them back.

Chronister said that the rioters were staying in the area of Fletcher Avenue and 30th all the way to the mall and further north toward the Walmart. Deputies were monitoring a large protest at the Walmart at Fletcher and 30th Street, however, the crowd had since dispersed.

News Channel 8 learned that the SunTrust Bank across from University Mall was broken into and looted just after 11 p.m. No other information on the incident was reported.

“While we support everyone’s right to assemble, rioting, looting and vandalizing is unacceptable. We will be on the streets as long as needed in order to keep the protesters and those around them safe, however, we are asking that everyone respect their fellow citizens and the property of others. Anything less is unacceptable,” Chronister said.

There was also a report of a person down near the University of South Florida at 131st Street and 17th Street. News Channel 8 has learned that a woman was shot in the parking lot of a residence north of the University Mall area. The shooting was likely not related to the protests. USF police said the shooting did not take place on campus.

Black Elected Officials of Hillsborough County released the following statement Saturday night:

We, the Black Elected Officials of Hillsborough County, are deeply disturbed by the destruction that is happening within the City of Tampa right now. Local small businesses are being destroyed, police and sheriff vehicles are being vandalized and violence is occurring against our own fellow residents.
We understand the hurt, pain and frustration that our protesters are feeling right now but we must remember, we have to live here tomorrow. We need to look at all methods of expressing our feelings and desires, not just destruction.
We would like to see a Taskforce created in the near future to address all violence within the City. This Taskforce should include activists, leaders in the community and local organizations so that we can stop the unnecessary violence in Tampa and create preventative ways to ensure the safety of all of our residents.
As for tonight, please be respectful and safe. Go home and be with your families.

Sen. Darryl Rouson
State Rep. Dianne Hart
State Rep. Fentrice Driskell
State Rep. Wengay Newton
County Commissioner Les Miller
City Councilman Orlando Gudes
School Board Member Tamara Shamburger

The video players below are from Eagle 8 HD and News Channel 8 ground crew coverage of the protests that took place on Saturday in Tampa and St. Petersburg. Again, viewer discretion is advised. Video will be added as the events unfold.

There is heavy police presence outside of University Mall off of Fowler Avenue.

A Mobil gas station was set on fire at 30th and Busch Boulevard. (Read More)

Protesters were seen looting at a Gold N Diamonds store off of Fowler Avenue. Police said looters were able to get through the security door.

Protesters were seen looting at an AT&T store off of Fowler Avenue.

“We are aware of the protests underway in Tampa, Temple Terrace and portions of unincorporated Hillsborough County. We support everyone’s right to assemble, and we will be on the streets as long as needed in order to keep the demonstrators and those around them safe. We are simply asking that everyone express themselves peacefully and with respect to fellow citizens and property,” Chronister Tweeted Saturday evening.

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