PETALING JAYA • Police in Malaysia yesterday said it was an alleged shoplifting incident that triggered a huge brawl at a popular electronics mall, dismissing talk that it was connected to racial issues.
Kuala Lumpur CID chief Senior Assistant Commissioner (SAC) Zainuddin Ahmad said the incident last Saturday at Low Yat Plaza in Bukit Bintang spiralled out of control when seven men returned to take revenge on the shop assistant who caught the alleged shoplifter.
"It has nothing to do with racial sentiments. It's between the customer and the shop assistants," The Star quoted him as saying.
He also urged the public not to spread rumours.
Police have detained a 22-year-old man, believed to be among those who carried out the attack at the shop. They said they are hunting six other men, and that the case is being investigated for rioting and mischief amounting to damage of property.
Earlier last Saturday, the mall's security guard caught the suspected shoplifter in a smartphone store and turned him over to the police.
"A friend of the suspect was upset with his arrest, and called for the others to retaliate," SAC Zainuddin told reporters.
Other people arrived at the store and started smashing glass display panels, flipping over cabinets and destroying phones and other electronic products worth some RM70,000 ($25,000).
The sales assistants tried to stop them and the brawl ensued on the ground floor.The fight brought the mall to a standstill.
Videos and images taken by onlookers at the scene went viral on social media platform almost immediately after the drama unfolded.
Security guards and a police officer were seen standing a few metres away while the fight went on.
Malaysian Chinese Association Youth chief Chong Sin Woon yesterday advised people not to spread the videos as it could cause racial tension.
"One side is blaming the other and urging people to boycott the shop," he noted.
He said that people should not pass judgment, and should refrain from making controversial comments over the incident.
The security manager of the mall has lodged a report with the police.
Yesterday evening, the tension was ratcheted up another notch when hundreds of people gathered outside the mall, allegedly to protest, reported The Star.
Police were called to the scene and cordoned off the area.
However, by about 10pm, the crowd had dispersed.