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Assaults, robberies turn Great America into real-life scare – The Mercury News

SANTA CLARA — Thieves reportedly armed with Tasers assaulted and robbed patrons at California’s Great America, turning the amusement park’s 10th annual Halloween fest into a real-life fright for thousands of visitors and employees, park security and visitors said.

Santa Clara police estimated that about 100 youth were perpetrating the mayhem, which broke out about 10:30 p.m. Saturday at the Great America Haunt. About 20,000 visitors were in the park, police said.

Police arrested one juvenile on suspicion of theft, Santa Clara Police Lieutenant Dan Moreno said. Visitors reported seeing other perpetrators escape into waiting cars.

Park patrons reported encountering groups of robbers, some armed with Tasers, who ran through crowds stealing mobile phones, purses, and backpacks and sending visitors fleeing for exits. Some panicked visitors tried to scale park fences. About 30 patrons were injured, by one security guard’s estimate.

“It was terrible,” said a San Francisco mom who had brought her 17-year-old daughter and a friend to the haunt. “A kid in a hoodie ran up and pried the phone out of my hands.”

The mother, who does not want to be publicly identified because she was victimized, said she then frantically searched for her daughter amid terrified crowds as people were being assaulted. Her daughter and friend were not physically harmed.

“One lady got punched in the face,” she said. “Security did nothing to try to get those guys out.”

About 20,000 guests were crowded into the park to wander through mazes, visit “spine-tingling scare zones” and board the Demon roller-coaster.

About four of the city’s officers were working privately, on contracted security shifts with the park. When the mayhem broke out, up to about a dozen more Santa Clara officers were called in to assist, Moreno said.

Park spokesman Roger Ross characterized the melee as incidents that were quickly addressed. “The safety of our guests is our top priority,” he wrote in an email.

A supervising guard with a firm handling security for the park said what began as groups snatching items escalated “to them going around beating up people randomly, even security guards and actors in the mazes.”  The guard, who didn’t want his name used because he was not authorized to speak, said that officers from other neighboring jurisdictions also were called in to restore order.

Even so, police and park security were outnumbered, visitors reported.

Ross said the park remained open until its normal 1 a.m. closing time.

But numerous guests reported that the lights dimmed about midnight and people were shepherded out.

That account was confirmed by the security supervisor. He himself reported being taunted and jumped by five assailants. When the guard flipped one to the ground, he said, the others fled.

The San Francisco mother woke up Sunday morning with pain in her arm and wrist.

“I feel so violated. I feel so completely violated,” she said. “I was just trying to drop off my daughter, and stick around because I live far away. This was terrible.”

Great America planned to operate its Haunt as scheduled Sunday. Its online advertisement reads, “Fear is waiting for you,”

Assaults, robberies turn Great America into real-life scare – The Mercury News

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