(Part 1 of 3)
Central, Fl- Central Police were forced to break out the riot gear, after violence erupted inside a suburban mall early Friday night. Wilmont Clemmons, 33, of Clear, Fl was booked on charges of Disturbing the Peace, Destruction of Private Property, and Incitation of a Riot, early Saturday morning according to a police spokesperson.
Witnesses say Clemmons, a mall employee who worked at The Sports Chalet, was completely unprovoked when he “smashed an Orange Julius Kiosk with baseball bat, after appearing to argue with (the kiosk) for quite a few minutes.”
“He encouraged others to join in… many did,” said patron John Stevens who leaned against an ambulance with his arm in a makeshift sling hours after the dust had settled. “Lots of us tried to run, but we got trampled by people rushing towards the commotion, like they wanted to get a better view. It was absolute chaos… they were animals.”
What set Clemmons off, seems to be a question that nobody can answer. According to his girlfriend, who spoke candidly on the condition that we didn’t print her name, Clemmons had just returned to work from a two week trip to his family’s cabin in upper Louisiana, where he spent his time “hunting and blowing shit up.”
“He was in a great mood this morning. When he gets back from his folks’ he always is. He’d mentioned how he was excited to get back to his routine after such a long break. He had missed hanging out with the other (Sports Chalet) employees, and couldn’t wait to see them.”
Of the few we interviewed, Clemmons’ co-workers indicated much the same thing. Said assistant manager Bill Kain, “Clem was is classic form all afternoon, he was really working his sale, I mean not ten minutes earlier he had just sold three pairs of Jordans to the same family. He was really killing it.”
But Clemmons killing wouldn’t stop with shoes. Ten minutes later the kiosk would be dead too.
Eyewitness Deb Frost had a front row seat through the window of Beverly Nails, where she had just settled in for her weekly mani / pedi. “At first I didn’t know what was going on. One minute Ming’s workin’ my cutes, then the next thing I know there’s a young man outside shouting something about “being disappointed…” followed by a lot of things I will not repeat. After a few minutes he disappeared from view, then returned with a baseball bat. That’s when things got crazy. I thought after security arrived that things would settle down. Boy was I wrong.”
Accounts vary as to what exactly happened next. First responder and highly decorated Afghan war vet Officer Sean Ramirez described the scene as “like nothing I’ve seen in all my years of combat. When we got inside, security had formed a perimeter around the angry mob. At first I thought they had established containment for the sake of protecting frightened patrons. We couldn’t have been more wrong. As we reached the crowd, one of the guards took a swing at (Officer Dan) Schmidty. That’s when I knew we were in trouble.”
“As I approached the crowd, I could sense there was something different, something didn’t add up. That’s when I saw a guard to my left rear back to throw a punch,” said Officer Schmidty. “Thank god I saw it coming… the guard was huge.”
It would take police armed with tear gas and batons nearly four hours before the riot was put down and the mall was cleared. In total eighteen people were arrested, an additional sixteen were taken into police custody for questioning, and at least twelve more were admitted to the hospital for injuries.
A police spokesman indicated more information would be provided at a press conference scheduled for Monday.
The Orange Julius Corporation did not reply to repeated requests for comment.