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Which led to Westfield closing the Marion Shopping Center in Adelaide’s south

Which led to Westfield closing the Marion Shopping Center in Adelaide’s south

Which led to Westfield closing the Marion Shopping Center in Adelaide’s south

Westfield Marion is facing criticism that staff overreacted when Adelaide’s biggest shopping center went into lockdown amid a brawl involving allegedly armed teenagers.

The shopping center in Adelaide’s south was closed at 3pm on Sunday following reports that two groups of youths, some of them believed to be armed, were fighting in the food court.

WATCH ABOVE VIDEO: What led to the closure of a major Adelaide shopping centre.

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Two 15-year-olds and a 16-year-old have been charged with assault, affray and aggravated robbery following the incident.

A teenager allegedly wielded a machete and sticks during a fight over a Trapstar jumper, prompting Westfield staff to raise the alarm.

The center warned shoppers to run and hide with electronic signs and an evacuation alert broadcast over a public address system.

Emergency alerts and signage were used in Westfield Marion's response.
Emergency alerts and signage were used in Westfield Marion’s response. Credit: 7NEWS

But some have now said the lockdown was an overreaction.

SA Opposition Leader David Speirs asked if the mall’s alerts and signage had unnecessarily increased panic.

The center had practiced an emergency response just a week before to prepare it for incidents such as the mass stabbing at Westfield Bondi Junction, where a man was shot dead after killing six people.

Ayla Pope, 8, did not go to school on Monday because she was left traumatized by the emergency warnings.

“I was thinking we’re never going to get out of there and they were coming to attack people,” Ayla said.

Her father, Adam Pope, said he was left speechless when Ayla asked him: “Dad, is she like Bondi again?”

However, other shoppers praised mall staff for doing the best they could with the information they were given.

Among them was mother Emily Burns, who was separated from her daughter as emergency warnings were broadcast.

“My 11-year-old was calling (me) and saying, ‘Mom, where are you?’ I love you. Are you okay?’ It was pretty terrifying,” Burns said.

“We don’t know what these kids were capable of,” she said in defense of the center’s staff.

STAR Group police officers stormed Westfield Marion on Sunday afternoon.
STAR Group police officers stormed Westfield Marion on Sunday afternoon. Credit: 7NEWS

Westfield said in a statement that the safety of customers, business partners and people is its “highest priority”.

“We are continuing to assist the police with their inquiries and investigations,” a spokesman said.

SA Police Assistant Commissioner Scott Duval said police and mall responses would be reviewed, but he was comfortable with the actions taken.

Prime Minister Peter Malinauskas said the police and the center did everything they could in response to the misinformation spread in a short period of time.

“I think it was easy to say in hindsight that it was an overreaction … but they also have to act on the side of caution,” Malinauskas said.

“There was rapid public messaging in the Westfield shopping center – there is a question as to whether or not that message reflected what was actually happening.”

A defense lawyer for the 16-year-old told a youth court it was not her client’s intention for the situation to escalate as it did.

The lawyer said Westfield’s response had put fear into shoppers, not her client’s alleged actions.

The court heard two of the boys had extensive criminal records and one was in state care.

The three youths from south Adelaide have been remanded in custody pending a report on home detention for two of them.