Aggressive Roosevelt Field crowd cancels Bieber visit
An album signing scheduled Friday for teen sensation Justin Bieber at Roosevelt Field mall was canceled because a crowd of 3,000 young girls and their parents started aggressively pushing and shoving, police said.
The girls had gathered to see the 15-year-old Canadian pop singer, who released his first eight-song CD, "My World," on Tuesday and planned to sign copies at the tween clothing store, Justice, starting at 4 p.m.
But by 2:30 Friday afternoon the crowds had grown unruly with aggressive pushing and shoving, police said. Thirty-five police units from Nassau County and Garden City were called in to control the throng.
"We shut this event down," Nassau County Police Det. Lt. Kevin Smith said. "There was a public safety concern." Five people were taken to area hospitals with minor injuries.
Police arrested a senior vice president from Bieber's label, Island Def Jam Records, James A. Roppo, 44, of Hoboken, N.J., saying he hindered their crowd-control efforts by not cooperating.
He was in custody Friday night, pending charges that could include criminal nuisance, endangering the welfare of a minor and obstructing government administration, Smith said.
"We asked for his help in getting the crowd to go away by sending out a Twitter message," Smith said. "By not cooperating with us we feel he put lives in danger and the public at risk."
In an interview on WBLI 106.1-FM at 7 p.m., Bieber talked about the scene at the mall. "It was so crazy that I couldn't get to even come in the building," the singer said. "They [the authorities] basically threatened to put me in cuffs and send me away to jail."
The event's cancellation was a major disappointment for fans who were crying, chanting "We want him," and singing as police tried to disperse them.
Latisha Villacis of New Hyde Park had camped out overnight Thursday at the mall with her husband and their daughter Cynthia, 14, to be among the first in line for yellow access bracelets.
But their family outing turned into "madness." "We were in the back of the store," Latisha said. "It was canceled because of safety issues. People were pushing each other; cutting in front of each other."
Bieber shot to stardom via YouTube. In 2007, he posted video of himself singing and the video quickly went viral, sparking interest from celebrities such as Usher and Justin Timberlake.
Jenny Rudolph, 13, of Rockville Centre, said she got to the mall at noon but didn't get into the building for another two hours. "We were on the top level of the garage, and everyone was pushing and shoving to get into the mall," Jenny said. "We couldn't even move."
Limore Tabid, 11, of Roslyn Heights, had arrived at the mall only to find out the event was canceled. "I am so mad," Limore said. "He's a heartbreaker. They should send us free tickets or something."
With Sid Cassese and Matthew Chayes