Black Friday is no joke.
Twenty people were reportedly injured at a Los Angeles area Walmart late Thursday when a woman unleashed pepper spray to keep other bargain hunters at bay. Two others were shot outside Walmarts in the Bay Area and South Carolina, and a number of people were injured by pepper spray by an off-duty officer in North Carolina.
The Los Angeles incident occurred at 10:20 p.m. when shoppers were let in the store and coverings to the electronics the woman wanted were removed, police told The Associated Press.
A witness told NBC Los Angeles the woman, who had two children in tow, became unhappy when people jostled in line while waiting to snag a new Xbox 360.
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Fire department spokesman Shawn Lenske told the AP at least 10 of the 20 injuries were due to "rapid crowd movement."
According to NBCLA, a section of the store was cleared while hurt customers were treated for the minor injuries. Police were looking for the woman.
Threre were sporadic reports of violence elsewhere across the country on Black Friday, with many of the incidents taking place at or outside of a Walmart.
A man was shot outside a Walmart in San Leandro, Calif., NBC Bay Area reported. Officials said the shooting stemmed from a fight in the parking lot and the assailant was still at large.
In a parking lot across the street from a Walmart in Myrtle Beach, S.C., a woman was shot in the leg around 1 a.m. Cops said the shooting appeared to have been a Black Friday related robbery attempt, WBTV reported.
Gunfire was also reported at a mall in Fayetteville, N.C., though there were no reports of injuries, the AP reported.
In Kinston, N.C., an off-duty police officer used pepper spray to break up a fight at a Walmart, WBTV reported. It's unclear how many people were affected by the spray; cell phone video of the man being arrested shows other people closing their mouths and coughing in the area.
NBC Connecticut reported that a man at a Milford Walmart was tasered police and charged in connection with a fight in the video game line.
A fight between two men at a Walmart jewelry counter in the Orlando area landed one of them handcuffs, the AP reported.
Police arrested a grandfather at a Walmart in Buckeye, Ariz. after an officer spotted the shopper tuck a videogame into his waist band, Fox 10 reported.
And two female shoppers were hospitalized and one man arrested when a melee broke out in the electronics department of a Walmart in Rome, N.Y., the Syracuse Post-Standard reported.
Walmart was one of a handful of big chains to open hours earlier than usual for this year’s Black Friday.
Toys R Us kicked off the frenzy at 9:00 p.m, getting a jump on Walmarts by an hour. Best Buy, Gap, Target, Macy’s and Kohl's started up at midnight. Early reports showed strong demand from customers.
The AP reported 2,000 people waited in line outside a Best Buy in St. Petersburg, Fla., while 300 braved the elements at a Best Buy in New York.
This year’s earlier-than-ever Black Friday touched a nerve with some workers at Target and Best Buy, who protested the stores’ opening hours. Occupy Wall Street-inspired protesters were also planning demonstrations at major corporations around the country.
Still, 152 million people were forecast to shop this Black Friday weekend, up from 138 million last year, according to the National Retail Foundation.
Marked down big screen TVs were the hot item, according to reports. Here's what else customers were buying:
Many stores began posting their deals online on Thanksgiving and sites like Gizmodo and BFads.net and The BlackFriday.com were already highlighting deals well before the sun went down. Check out our Black Friday survival guide.
Black Friday counts for about one-third of annual sales for big chains, according to Reuters. Analysts will look at the numbers from Black Friday weekend as a forecasting tool, the retail industry’s equivalent of Punxsutawney Phil.
“If Thursday and Friday are not very good, chances are it will not pick up going up to Christmas," Keith Jelinek, a director at consulting firm AlixPartners's retail practice, told Reuters.