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Black Friday violence: 2 shot in armed robberies, 15 others pepper-sprayed

Black Friday takes a dark turn around the country with fights, shootings and even pepper spray incidents. NBC News' Kristen Dahlgren reports.

Violence erupted at Black Friday sales across the U.S. with one bargain-hunter left critically injured after being shot during a robbery and 15 other people injured when an angry shopper used pepper spray.

Updated 5:30 p.m. ET: Several of the incidents took place at Walmart stores as millions of Americans loaded up on holiday purchases. A spokesman for the company told NBC News that "overall, it's been a very safe event at the thousands of Walmart stores open for Black Friday."

"There were a few unfortunate incidents, but otherwise we've heard positive feedback from our customers and associates," he said.

Update 12:17 p.m. ET: A robot removed a suspicious device that led to the evacuation of a Walmart store  in Cave Creek, Ariz., Maricopa County, sheriff's deputies said.

Deputies told KPHO-TV of Phoenix that they had reason to believe the device might have been an explosive and said whoever left it in a refrigerator at the store Thursday could face felony charges. Police dogs swept the store for further possible devices, they said, and the store reopened late Thursday night, KPHO reported.

Update 11:57 a.m. ET: An off-duty police officer used pepper spray on shoppers at a Walmart in Kinston, N.C.

Kinston police Sgt. Roland Davis said an off-duty officer whom the store had hired to help with security used the chemical while trying to make an arrest during a disturbance. Unconfirmed reports said as many as 20 peopl ewer affected.

Holiday shoppers are flocking to stores with hopes of snagging Black Friday deals. Courtney Reagan reports from the Greene Town Center in Dayton, Ohio.

Updated 10:55 a.m. ETA Rome, N.Y., man was charged with disorderly conduct after a fight that broke out the moment Black Friday shopping began at midnight, NBC station WSTM of Syracuse, N.Y., reported.

Several shoppers at the electronics department at a Walmart store were pushed to the ground, and several fights broke out, Oneida County sheriff's deputies said. Two shoppers were taken to a hospital for minor injuries.

Updated 10:39 a.m. ETPolice said they were investigating a possible shooting in the parking lot of Valley West Mall in West Des Moines, Iowa, NBC station WHO reported. There was no immediate report that anyone was injured.

Police got a call of shots fired shortly before 4 a.m., when the mall opened. They wouldn't say whether they had a suspect, and they reassured shoppers that the mall is safe..

Updated 9:50 a.m. ET: A 55-year-old shopper was shot and wounded during a robbery near a Walmart in Myrtle Beach, S.C., NBC station WMBF reported.

Tonia Robbins, 55, was shot in the foot after two men demanded her purse shortly after 1 a.m. ET Friday as she stood by the trunk of her car with friends.

Updated 9:45 a.m. ET: An explosive device was found at a break room at a Walmart in Cave Creek, Ariz., according to reports Friday.  

Maricopa County Sheriff's Office said a suspicious package was found inside a refrigerator in the store break room on Thursday. The store was evacuated as a precaution while deputies investigated the package.

Updated at 9:40 a.m. ET: A Black Friday shopper was shot and critically injured during a robbery outside a Walmart in San Leandro, Calif., early Friday, police said.

Police patrolling the parking lot found a victim suffering a gunshot wound and a possible suspect being detained by family members of the victim.

Police said the victims were walking to their car with their purchases and were approached by multiple suspects who demanded the merchandise.

A fight ensued and one suspect pulled out a gun and shot one of the victims. Some of the victims wrestled down one suspect as the other suspect fled the scene.

The victim who was shot is in critical but stable condition at a local hospital. The suspect in custody is an adult male in his mid '20s, but it is not known if he was the shooter.

Updated at 7.30 a.m. ET: An angry woman used pepper spray when Black Friday bargain-hunters tried to cut in line at a crowded Walmart store in Los Angeles late Thursday, leaving 15 people with minor injuries. The incident occurred shortly after 10:20 p.m. PT (1:20 a.m. ET Friday) in the San Fernando Valley as shoppers looking for deals were let inside the outlet.

Shawn Lenske, a Los Angeles fire department spokesman, said the injuries were due to "rapid crowd movement."

Video uploaded to youTube shows shopper recovering after one woman allegedly doused them in pepper spray as they battled for bargains at a Walmart in Los Angeles. NBC's Kristen Dahlgren reports.

NBC News reported police said no more than 15 were hurt, 10 of them for the effects of inhalation of pepper spray.

Police Lt. Abel Parga said a woman used pepper spray, then left. Parga said police were looking for the woman and no arrests have been made.

 "It was an unhappy customer,'' he said.

A witness told Los Angeles' NBC4 that the incident started as people waited in line for the new Xbox 360.

The witness said a woman with two children in tow became upset with the way people were pushing in line. The witness said the woman pulled out pepper spray and sprayed the other people.

NBC News quoted a police officer as saying the flare-up was triggered when a crowd rushed toward merchandise following a "big reveal" of items that had been hidden by draping.

NYT: Friday's deals may not be the best

One section of the store was cleared while patients were treated and the pepper spray dissipated, Parga said. People were seen pouring out of the store, but customers were allowed back in to continue shopping.

The dispute came as as stores opened their doors at midnight — a few hours earlier than they normally do on the most anticipated shopping day of the year.

Story: Crazed weekend launches crucial retail season

Herald Square in New York was bustling at 6 p.m. ET Thursday, the Associated Press reported, with shoppers looking to snag discounts at Old Navy and other stores that were open on the Thanksgiving. By 9:45 p.m. ET, more than 300 people were waiting outside a Best Buy in New York before it opened at midnight. An hour later, nearly 2,000 were in line at another Best Buy in St. Petersburg, Florida, ahead of its midnight opening.

Retailers hope the earlier openings will make Black Friday shopping more convenient for Americans who are more likely to be worried about high unemployment and the other challenges they face in the weak economy.

A Texas couple is set to tie the knot after meeting three years ago while waiting in a Black Friday shopping line at Target. KXAS-TV's Amanda Guerra reports.

Black Friday is important to merchants because it kicks off the holiday shopping season, a time when they can make 25 to 40 percent of their annual revenue. It's expected that shoppers will spend nearly $500 billion during the holiday shopping season, or about 3 percent more than they did last year.

PhotoBlog: Black Friday shopping starts on Thursday

"It's a good move to try to get shoppers to spend sooner, before they run out of money," says Burt Flickinger, III, president of retail consultancy Strategic Resource Group.

About 34 percent of consumers plan to shop on Black Friday, up from 31 percent last year, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers, and 16 percent had planned to shop on Thanksgiving Day itself. For the weekend, 152 million people are expected shop, up from 138 million last year.

Update at 5:45 a.m. ET: Authorities say gunfire erupted at a North Carolina mall as holiday shoppers gathered, the Associated Press reported.

The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office said detectives were looking for two suspects after gunfire rang out at Cross Creek Mall in Fayetteville early Friday. No injuries were reported.

The first shots were fired around 2 a.m. outside the mall near a food court entrance. Investigators say several more shots were fired after one of the suspects ran inside the mall.