A Southern California shoe store owner opened fire at two shoplifters, police said, but mistakenly shot a 9-year-old girl about to get her picture with a mall Easter bunny. The store owner fled the state and was arrested in Nevada, authorities said Wednesday. 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, per the AP.
The girl, identified by family members as Ava Chruniak, had been getting ready for pictures with the Easter bunny in the mall when the shots were fired, said her grandmother, Robin Moraga-Saldarelli. The girl was left with three gunshot wounds, including two in her arm, Moraga-Saldarelli said. One bullet 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 told Fox 11 TV in Los Angeles.
Deputies responding to the reports of gunfire found Ava wounded at about 6:30pm, 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 9pm in Clark County by the Nevada Highway 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.
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