Deputies responded to Gulf Coast Town Center late Thursday night. Employees of a bar feet away from the incident say they witnessed a group of people hold down a security guard and beat him.
The Lee County Sheriff's Office says the guard was not beat up but struck while trying to split up a fight. The suspects fled the scene and the guard chose not to prosecute.
For frequent shoppers the incident put them on high alert.
"That's just scary and not right," one patron said. "This is a place where people bring their children and families for fun."
Employees in the plaza say this recent incident isn't the most alarming at the popular shopping center.
"At the Mexican place there was a shooting," an employee said. "That was probably the worst I've heard of most recently."
In the past few months alone, thieves have broken into cars, a man exposed himself outside a bar after trying to fight people in a restroom; Recently, there was a drug deal that started in the center that ended in a deadly shooting. Another incident involved a 78 year man robbed a gun point while sitting in his car.
"It's scary for the people that come down here," a shopper said. "This is going to drive people away for sure."
Is crime actually increasing at Gulf Coast Town Center?
Digging through data, Four In Your Corner found in 2016 there were about 450 calls for service from January to December. While most calls were for area checks, the more alarming calls were for assaults, suspicious activity, shots fired, and a shooting within the last two years.
There are also calls listed for vandalism and a bomb threat in April.
If you compare the numbers to just 150 calls through the first six months of this year on a pace for just 300 call outs this year.
Employees say they have seen more guards patrolling the area recently.
“I’ve been here almost three year and I haven’t had to worry about anything happening to me so I feel like I’m in good hands.”
Four In Your Corner has attempted calling management for Gulf Coast Town Center but has not received a call back.