Holiday Central

Violence flares as shoppers slug it out for best Black Friday deals

Henry Austin, NBC News contributor
Wal-Mart television melee

Shoppers eager to take advantage of early Thanksgiving deals brawled late Thursday as retailers across the country prepared for more crowds on what was expected to be a bumper Black Friday.

After buying a big screen TV, a Las Vegas shopper was shot around 9:45 p.m. PST Thursday as he tried to take his purchase home, Lt. David Gordon of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department told NBC News.

"As the victim was walking through his complex he was approached by a suspect who fired warning shots which caused the victim to release the television," he said.

Shoppers wait in line during on Thanksgiving 2013 at the Toys 'R Us store in Fairfax, Va.
Paul J. Richards | AFP | Getty Images

As the thief tried to load it into a vehicle the victim approached him to try to get it back, Gordon added.

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"The suspect fired two more shots and the victim was struck in the leg," he said. "He was not seriously injured."

Early Friday shoppers started arriving at a Chicago-area Kohl's store just hours after a police officer shot the driver of a car that was dragging another officer responding to a call of alleged shoplifting which came in around 10 p.m. CST.

Black Friday 'frenzy' very hot

An officer chased a fleeing suspect to his car when "the car started to move as the officer was partially inside the car," Romeoville Police Chief Mark Turvey told NBC station WBCD. "The officer was dragged quite some distance." A backup officer then shot the driver of the car.

(Read more: Chart of the Day: Why Black Friday matters)

Both the driver and the dragged officer were taken to a hospital with minor injuries. Three people were arrested, police said.

At least three people got into a fight in the parking lot of a Walmart in Rialto, Calif., because shoppers were cutting in line, Sgt. Nicholas Borchard told NBC Southern California. Two people were taken into custody after the fight, he added. A police officer suffered a minor unknown injury.

A man in Claypool Hill, W.Va., was slashed to the bone with a knife after threatening another man with a gun in an argument over a Walmart parking spot, Tazewell County Sheriff Brian Hieatt told NBC station WVVA. Both faced charges after the incident that happened at 6:30 p.m. EST, the station reported.

Wal-Mart EVP: Our customers resilient

Another shopper was charged with aggravated assault on a police officer after getting into an argument with a New Jersey Walmart store manager about a television set, police told NBC New York. Officers arrived at the scene at 6:39 p.m. EST and once they had pacified the customer they also charged the shopper with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, Garfield police told the station.

Stores have braced themselves for the Black Friday rush despite a Consumer Reports poll this week that found 56 percent of Americans had no plans to shop at all this weekend.

(Read more: How retailers are spying on your Black Friday spree)

Because Thanksgiving fell on Nov. 28, the latest possible date, there are six fewer shopping days this holiday season than last. The most common reason — named by 70 percent of respondents — was a desire to avoid the crowds.

A Gallup poll this year found that 53 percent of Americans are very or somewhat likely to do their shopping online, the highest share since Gallup started asking the question in 1998.

However Wal-Mart President and CEO Bill Simon told TODAY that the company had a "terrific night" Thursday and expected a busy Black Friday, too.

(Read more: Black Friday Live:Sales strong at Wal-Mart, Target)

He also defended the decision to open on Thanksgiving.

"We've been opening since the '80s," he said. "We're in the service industry. We open when our customers want to shop."

By Henry Austin, NBC News contributor.'s Patrick Rizzo and The Associated Press contributed to this report.