Police say a Southern California shoe store owner opened fire at two shoplifters but mistakenly shot and wounded a 9-year-old girl about to have her picture taken with a mall Easter bunny
Marqel Cockrell, 20, was chasing the shoplifters out of the store Tuesday evening at the Mall of Victor Valley in the small city of Victorville when he “fired multiple shots at the shoplifters,” Victorville police said in a statement.
“Cockrell’s shots missed the shoplifters and instead hit the 9-year-old female victim,” the statement said.
The girl, identified by family members as Ava Chruniak, had been getting ready for pictures of her to be taken with the Easter bunny in the mall when she was shot twice in an arm, her grandmother, Robin Saldarelli, told Fox 11 TV in Los Angeles. One of the bullets fractured a bone.
“And it’s the kind of fracture they can’t surgically fix. She’s going to have to wear a special brace for it, and it’s going to take a lot longer to heal,” she said.
Deputies responding to the reports of gunfire found Ava suffering from her wounds at about 6:30 p.m., the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said.
She was airlifted to a hospital in stable condition, officials said. The mall’s stores were locked down and customers sheltered inside as deputies searched for the shooter.
Cockrell, a co-owner of the shoe store Sole Addicts, was arrested in his car at about 9 p.m. in Clark County, Nevada by the Nevada High Patrol, Victorville police said.
He was being held Wednesday for lack of $1 million bail at the Clark County Detention Center “on an extraditable warrant, for attempted murder,” Victorville police said. An extradition hearing was scheduled for Thursday and jail and court records did not indicate whether Cockrell had an attorney representing him who could comment on his behalf.
The mall was closed Tuesday after the shooting and reopened on Wednesday.