Girl, 9, waiting for Easter bunny photo ‘shot by store owner who fired at shoplifters and fled’

Ava Chruniak (right) was allegedly shot by shoe store co-owner Marqel Cockrell (left) while she waited for a photo with an Easter bunny at a mall in California (Pictures: GoFundMe/Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department/FOX 11)

A 9-year-old girl who was waiting for a picture with an bunny at a mall was hit by a stray bullet allegedly fired by a shoe store owner aiming at thieves.

Marqel Cockrell, 20, was chasing two shoplifters out of his store at the Mall of Victor Valley in Victorville, California, when he ‘fired multiple shots’ at them, police said.

‘Cockrell’s shots missed the shoplifters and instead hit the 9-year-old female victim,’ the Victorville Police Department stated of the shooting that occurred shortly before 6.30pm on Tuesday.

A co-owner of Sole Addicts, Cockrell fled the scene.

The girl, Ava Chruniak, was getting ready for a photo with the Easter bunny at the mall when she was struck, her grandmother Robin Moraga-Saldarelli said.

Ava suffered two gunshot wounds and a broken arm, according to a page her family set up.

She was treated at the scene and transported to Loma Linda University Medical Center.

Patrol personnel across the high desert region were dispatched to search and clear the mall. California Highway Patrol officials responded and helped secure the scene.

‘No little girl deserves this! No child deserves this she was at the mall going for Easter pictures with the bunny she such a sweet loving girl and loves reading her books,’ her mother Natalie Moraga wrote on the fundraising page.

‘Please help us find Ava’s shooter he deserves to be behind bars!’

Nevada Highway Patrol officers found Cockrell in his vehicle around 9pm and arrested him. He was booked in Clark County Jail on an extraditable warrant for attempted murder, amounting to $1million.

Ava is reportedly in stable condition. She smiled for the camera from her hospital bed for a photo that has been shared online.

Anyone with information for the investigation is urged to contact the Victorville Police Department.

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