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'Too much going on': Crowds overflow, tempers flare at back-to-school giveaway on Bardstown Road

A Highlands business handed out hundreds of new shoes and backpacks to families for free. Huge crowds stretched onto the street, and the heat added to frustrations.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A back-to-school giveaway hosted by a local business in the Highlands of Louisville brought in hundreds of families over the course of Tuesday afternoon -- perhaps more than they expected for the first-time event.

Huge crowds packed the inside of Oneness Boutique and the outside sidewalk along Bardstown Road, at times spilling out onto the street and blocking parts of it.

Oneness partnered with local rapper EST Gee to donate more than $50,000 worth of new shoes, backpacks and iPads to parents and kids who showed up at their doorstep. The event was put together on short notice to help families out before the start of classes at Jefferson County Public Schools Wednesday.

"Just trying to make it easy on some parents dealing with rough times you know," store owner Joe Staley said. "Gas and food prices are through the roof."

Staley and other employees had good intentions but pointed to how quickly the event was planned -- within 48 hours and shared through social media. And on a hot summer day, the line fell apart and tempers flared soon after.

"Everyone was just in one big group, so instead of asking who was first, my guys just started handing shoes out to kids [and] asking their sizes," Staley said. "We tried to get them to as many people as we possibly could."

Within just a few hours, the store was out. Staley said they gave away around 300 pairs of sneakers.

Some families became frustrated, leading to folks pressed up against each other reaching for shoe boxes and backpacks. At one point, Alesia Floyd, who helped the store run the event, called out to dozens of families to calm down.

"No more shoes, we will do events in the future," she said. "Louisville, you have to learn how to respect yourself. You have to learn how to stay in a peaceful environment."

According to Louisville Metro Police (LMPD), both EMS and the Louisville Fire Department were originally called to tend to parents and kids struggling with the heat, but assistance was canceled as the event ended and people began to leave.

At least a dozen LMPD officers were seen giving out water and working to keep a huge crowd of families off the street, leading them back onto the sidewalk.

While many families walked away with new gear, others like mother of five Tasha Edison struck out after waiting for hours.

"There was just a lot of arguing and fighting and everybody running everywhere and grabbing their kids, to make sure [they] stayed safe," Edison said. "But it was too hot, too much going on."

Meanwhile, Staley said since the planning happened so quickly, it was difficult to keep things fully organized -- especially outside the store. He said his business is hoping to do this again next year, with more help and more supply.

Some families told WHAS11 that at one point, fights had broken out. But as of Tuesday afternoon, that's not confirmed and LMPD said it hasn't seen or reported any injuries.

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