Fights break out at Christmas toy giveaway event on Detroit's west side

39-year-old woman arrested after pulling knife on someone

By Nick Monacelli - Reporter

DETROIT - Large crowds, fights and a woman arrested for pulling a knife -- none are normally synonymous with a toy giveaway. But Saturday on Detroit's west side, hundreds, if not thousands, gathered for free Christmas toys.

Police had to be called in because, at times, the crowds were unruly.

"People were fighting over toys, so they shut the door," one person said.

It was likely a first for any kind of toy giveaway, crowds so large Detroit police had to step in, and those trying to get toys, at times, getting out of control.

Saturday night's toy giveaway is part of a program called Toys Making I.M.P.A.C.T.S. For months, those in need could register for free toys for their children, and when the doors opened at Tower Center Mall on Grand River Avenue at 4 p.m., close to 6,000 children were signed up.

And more families who didn't sign up showed up.

The organizers admit that organization and crowd control is on them. They just weren't expecting so many people.

"Unfortunately, it takes longer, people get a little impatient," event sponsor Dr. Princess Odilia said.

"Detroit has a tremendous need for help in our community. As a result, you have this type of response," one person said.

But those in line say it wasn't just about the crowds. It was the entire event.

"I've been waiting for about five hours in the cold with my kids," Nicole Russell said.

A 39-year-old woman was arrested after pulling a knife on someone during a fight. No one was hurt, but this happened in front of her children, so Detroit police had to take them back to the precinct and try to find other family members.

The good news is despite all this and the hours-long waits, there were enough toys to go around -- somewhere between 15,000 to 20,000 of them.

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