Reports have come in from ABC News that a 9-year-old girl was mistakenly shot as the owner of a Southern California sneaker shop was firing after shoplifters fleeing from the store. The owner fled the state and was arrested in Nevada, authorities said Wednesday.
Located in Victorville, Calif., Sole Addicts is a local sneaker resale shop inside the Victor Valley Mall. Co-owner Marquel Cockrell, 20, noticed two shoplifters running out of the store when he decided to open fire. Cockrell missed the shoplifters and instead accidentally hit a 9-year-old girl who was waiting in line to get her picture taken with the Easter Bunny.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department first responded to the reports of gunfire that wounded the girl at about 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 12th. She was airlifted to a nearby hospital in stable condition and has remained under care since.
The mall stores were locked down with customers taking shelter inside as the deputies continued to search for the shooter. Cockrell was finally located in his car at about 9 p.m. and arrested in Clark County by the Nevada Highway Patrol, Victorville police said.
The victim has been identified as Ava Chruniak. The girl was left with three gunshot wounds, including two in her arm, with one of the bullets fracturing a bone, as reported by her grandmother, Robin Moraga-Saldarelli.
“And it’s the kind of fracture they can’t surgically fix,” said Moraga-Saldarelli as she spoke to Fox 11 News. “She’s going to have to wear a special brace for it, and it’s going to take a lot longer to heal.”
Moraga-Saldarelli also spoke to KNBC-TV saying, “It’ll be awhile before the bone heals and then we will see the extent of the nerve damage, but she’s a trooper. She really is a tough little kid.”
The mother of Chruniak, Natalie Moraga, has organized a GoFundMe asking for $5,000 in relief of recovery expenses.
Cockrell was held after his arrest for failing to post bail, which is set at $1 million. He is being held at the Clark County Detention Center “on an extraditable warrant, for attempted murder,” Victorville police said. An extradition hearing is scheduled for Thursday, April 14th. It’s unclear if Cockrell will have an attorney available to represent him, as jail and court records show no indication.
“I’m glad they caught him and he will definitely pay for this. I really hope they throw the book at him,” Moraga-Saldarelli told KNBC-TV.
Since the shooting, the fellow co-owner of Sole Addicts, Amairani Sanchez, has expressed sincere condolences to Chruniak and her family.
“I don’t care about the shop,” Sanchez told CBS News. “That little girl, she’s in my prayers.”
Sanchez has made the decision to permanently shut down Sole Addicts, which she owns in part with Cockrell.
“This was my dream and for someone who doesn’t have the right mindset as me to take it away, it really hurts,” said Sanchez.
The 21-year-old business owner said that their store had been targeted by shoplifters before, which led her to purchase theft insurance, so that the store could be protected in shoplifting instances like this. Sanchez is confused why Cockrell decided to open fire on the shoplifting suspects and admitted that Cockrell overreacted to the situation.
“I just don’t even know what was going through his head to even pull [the gun] out, but it could have been solved so differently,” said Sanchez.