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Emergency personnel prepare to aid people injured after fireworks were set off at Hamilton Place mall Monday.
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Chattanooga police investigate at Hamilton Place mall on Monday after fireworks were set off.

Police are searching for two people who set off fireworks inside Hamilton Place mall as chaos hit more than a dozen malls nationwide Monday.

Three people were injured when several local mallgoers panicked at the sound of fireworks going off around 4:45 p.m. Monday, Chattanooga Police Department spokesman Rob Simmons said. They were all treated on the scene and released, Simmons added.

Investigators now are working to pull video footage and identify the individuals, who are probably young adults, Simmons said. If caught, he said, the perpetrators could face charges of reckless endangerment or inciting to riot, a class A misdemeanor that carries up to a year in jail. Reckless endangerment, also a class A misdemeanor, becomes a low-grade felony if the offense is committed with "a deadly weapon," according to Tennessee code.

Police said the fireworks were deployed to cover up a possible shoplifting. An official Twitter account for Hamilton Place estimated 20 fireworks went off inside Life is Pink, a clothing boutique. Jim Tanner, deputy director of communications and marketing at McCallie School, said he was wandering around Dillard's when the commotion began.

"I didn't hear anything," he said, "but all of a sudden, people started running through the store toward the parking exit doors."

Outside, the rumors began: Maybe it was a shooting. After standing around for five minutes, Tanner walked back into the mall and noticed a few armed police officers near Pink. Several stores had lowered metal gates over their doors. Near the food court, there were scattered chairs and spilled tacos on the ground.

"It was eerie, but quickly cleared that it was nothing," Tanner said.

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Memphis police officers block off the entrances to the Oak Court Mall on Monday, Dec. 26, 2016, after a disturbance at the mall in Memphis, Tenn. Authorities and witnesses say there have been disturbances at two malls in Memphis and one of them had to be shut down. (Jim Weber/The Commercial Appeal via AP)

Elsewhere, several fights broke out at malls nationwide Monday night, sending shoppers who were looking for post-holiday deals scrambling for the exits.

No one was seriously injured in the mall melees, which, during the panic, also prompted numerous false reports of gunfire.

Fights broke out at two Memphis malls, according to local reports. One led to the closing of the Oak Court Mall and another, at the nearby Wolfchase Galleria, resulted in several 911 calls about shots fired, The Commercial Appeal reported.

"Somebody yelled 'Gun!' and youths stampeded through the mall," Deputy Chief Terry Landrum of the Memphis Police Department told the paper about the episode at the Wolfchase Galleria, noting the similarity to the melee at Oak Court.

Police in Ohio told Cleveland.com that officers used pepper spray to disperse a large crowd after a fight at an upscale shopping mall in Beachwood, just outside of Cleveland.

A report of shots fired was later determined to be unfounded.

One male juvenile was arrested for allegedly trying to hit an officer during the incident, which police said appeared to have been "loosely organized on social media."

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Police officers continue to patrol the area as people linger in the parking lots around Oak Court Mall after the mall was closed due to a disturbance Monday, Dec. 26, 2016, in Memphis, Tenn. Authorities and witnesses say there have been disturbances at two malls in Memphis and one of them had to be shut down. (Jim Weber/The Commercial Appeal via AP)

There were similar disturbances at malls around the country including in New York, New Jersey and North Carolina, where chaos erupted at a mall in Fayetteville and emergency medical personnel were called in to assist someone who had a medical episode while fleeing.

Police in Aurora, Colo., near Denver, evacuated a mall because of multiple skirmishes.

The trouble reportedly began during an arrest when an unruly crowd surrounded the scene.

Aurora police spokesman Sgt. Chris Amsler said that as the suspect was being taken into custody, the crowd, which mushroomed in size to about 500 people, advanced on the officer and fights broke out. Five juveniles were arrested. No one was hurt.

In Aurora, Ill., outside Chicago, a mall there was temporarily shut down because of a large disturbance. Videos posted on Twitter showed mall security trying to get the situation under control.

There was no official word on whether any of the fights, also reported in Arizona, Texas, Indiana and Connecticut, were connected.

Staff writer Zack Peterson contributed to this story.

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