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Girl shot as US shop owner fires at thieves

VICTORVILLE, CALIFORNIA (AP) – A Southern California shoe store owner opened fire at two shoplifters, police said, but mistakenly shot a nine-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 on Wednesday.

Marqel Cockrell, 20, was chasing the shoplifters out of the store 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 nine-year-old female victim,” the statement said.

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.

Ava Chruniak had been getting ready for pictures with the Easter bunny in the mall when the shots were fired. PHOTO: CBSNEWS
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