Business & Economy

Woman pepper sprays Black Friday competition at LA-area Walmart

File: The world's largest retailer, Walmart, in Chicago, Illinois.
File: The world's largest retailer, Walmart, in Chicago, Illinois.
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A woman shot pepper spray to keep shoppers from merchandise she wanted during a Black Friday sale at a crowded Los Angeles-area Walmart, and 20 people suffered minor injuries, authorities said.

An LAPD sergeant says the woman will face at least one felony count of battery for every person she injured, characterizing her actions as “not a very bright thing to do.”

The incident occurred around 10:20 p.m. Thursday as shoppers hungry for deals were let inside the Porter Ranch store.

The store had brought out a crate of discounted Xbox video game players. A crowd had formed to wait for the unwrapping. Police say the woman began spraying people "in order to get an advantage."

"Somehow she was trying to use it to gain an upper hand," police Lt. Abel Parga told the Associated Press early Friday.

He said she was apparently after some electronics and used the pepper spray to keep other shoppers at bay. There are reports the woman grabbed an Xbox before leaving the store, but police say it's not clear whether she got one. The store is looking through the register receipts to try to find out.

Parga said police were still looking for the woman. It’ll take just a day or two before we see images of the woman. Los Angeles police are working with store security to get the images.

In the meantime, a fuller description of the woman was released by LAPD Det. Gus Villanueva on Friday afternoon. Police described the woman as a Latina, in her early to late 30s, wearing black pants and a black sweater during the late Thursday night assault. The woman stands about 5-foot-3 and weighs about 140 pounds.

The woman used the spray in more than one area of the Wal-Mart, the L.A. Times reports. She did it "to gain preferred access to a variety of locations in the store," Los Angeles Fire Capt. James Carson told the Times. "She was competitive shopping," he said.

Ten people were slightly injured by the spray, while 10 others suffered minor bumps and bruises in the chaos. The injured included children. Shoppers hit with pepper spray complained of minor skin and eye irritation, as well as sore throats, the Times reports.

One shopper says he heard screaming and yelling, and moments later, his throat was stinging. He was "coughing really bad and watering up," Matthew Lopez told the L.A. Times.

One section of the store was cleared while patients were treated and the pepper spray dissipated. The store remained open, however, and everyone else just kept on shopping.

Some of the store's sales included $5 Bratz dolls, $10 Wii video games and $29 tricycles.

Police have requested that anyone with information on the incident call detectives at (818) 832-0609.

This story has been updated.