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LOS ANGELES (CAP) - It wouldn't be the most anticipated film series since Twilight if mayhem didn't ensue at the Los Angeles mall tour stop for The Hunger Games, which was held at the Westfield Century City Mall on Saturday. That it would result in bloodshed and possibly cannibalism took some people by surprise, though.
"It was horrible - horrible!" said a visibly shaken Lt. Carl Bender of the Los Angeles Police Department, whose officers tried to reign in the group of more than 1,000 12- to 16-year-olds, mostly girls, who rioted when they couldn't get close enough to stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth.
"Especially Josh Hutcherson," noted Lt. Bender, referring to the actor who plays Peeta Mellark in the upcoming Hunger Games movie, and whom Bender described as "admittedly dreamy."
"I'm just saying," Bender added, grimacing as an EMT bandaged the area where a 12-year-old San Bernadino girl had bitten him on the calf.
Apparently the crowd became unruly when security guards attempted to get them to back away from the stage, and a group of youngsters near the front upended the guards' Segway scooters. Before long the stars had been shuffled to an undisclosed location and the crowd overran the mall, violently letting loose on each other and mall personnel in an attempt to get to Lawrence, Hutcherson and Hemsworth.
"Especially Hutcherson," Bender reiterated.
According to witnesses, the violence started when hundreds of girls overran a giant cornucopia display filled with rolled-up Josh Hutcherson posters and started whacking each other mercilessly with them. The ones who didn't get their hands on posters wound up fashioning flaming arrows out of hangers they pulled from displays in the mall's Hollister store.
"At first it was just chaos, but eventually the crowd settled down into separate camps that started plotting out strategies to out-survive the others at all costs," said Pretzel Time cashier Sarah Farliski, who witnessed the melee. "It was almost as if they had to start making choices that weighed survival against humanity and life against love.
"I'm just saying," she added.
Police reported several possible fatalities among the crowd, primarily via arrow injuries, land mines, poisoned berries and genetically mutated wasps, in addition to the people beaten to death by Josh Hutcherson posters. Reports of cannibalism were yet to be confirmed, although "there's no denying these kids were pretty hungry," said Farliski, who also reported selling a record number of pretzels.
Dr. Francis Spitznagel of the Pew Research Center described the phenomenon of Hunger Games fans turning to violence as "disturbing," noting that with Twilight the effects tended to be more emotional in nature, such as when girls would become despondent when told the books weren't true.
"Very rarely do Twilight fans shoot anybody with flaming arrows," noted Spitznagel, clarifying however that sometimes their boyfriends do.
For their part, the stars seemed to understand how The Hunger Games might drive the fans to violence. "It's exciting to see the passion," Hemsworth said. "It's cool." Then he got hit by a flaming hanger.
Meanwhile, One Million Moms president Karen Grabower commented that her group had no problem with the book, the movie or the subsequent violence that broke out, as long as nobody involved was gay.
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