Girl, 9, allegedly shot by merchant says she’ll “never forgive” him

Author: CBS News Staff
Gunshot victim identified by family members as Ava Chruniak, 9, as she was being released from hospital on April 14, 2022. CBS LOS ANGELES

A Southern California shoe store owner accused of shooting and wounding a 9-year-old girl when he opened fire at shoplifters agreed Thursday to be returned from Nevada to face charges in the case.

The girl says she’ll “never forgive” him.

Police have said that Marqel Cockrell, 20, fled from the California desert city of Victorville in his car just after the girl, identified by family members as Ava Chruniak, was mistakenly hit by bullets on Tuesday as she waited to have her picture taken with a mall Easter bunny.

Cockrell, 20, stood in court and told a Las Vegas judge that he understood that California authorities had 30 days to extradite him. He wasn’t represented by an attorney because Nevada doesn’t provide lawyers for extradition cases.

Marqel Cockrell, 20, in Las Vegas court on April 14, 2022.

Cockrell co-owns the shoe store Sole Addicts at the Mall of Victor Valley and was chasing two shoplifters at about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday when he fired shots that “instead hit the 9-year-old female victim,” Victorville police said in a statement.

The girl suffered three gunshot wounds, including two in one arm, her grandmother, Moraga-Saldarelli said. One of the bullets fractured an arm bone.

She was released from the hospital on Thursday but will require another operation to repair nerve damage, CBS Los Angeles reported.

“I will never forgive him. What he did to me is not OK,” Ava told the station from her bed at home. “No one should have a gun in the mall.”

“I want to know why they shot me,” she said. “Why was I the one who got shot?”

“Nobody in their right state of mind would run out in a crowded mall and pop shots,” Ava’s father Charles Chruniak, Jr., told CBS L.A.

“I just want her to be a normal kid,” said Chruniak. “I want her to have that normal life.”

“She’s a trooper,” Ava’s grandmother said while speaking with CBS reporters Wednesday.

Police have said that Cockrell drove from the mall before responding officers arrived after receiving reports of gunfire and that he was arrested in Nevada’s Clark County, about a three-hour drive from Victorville.

Cockrell is being held at the Clark County Detention Center in Las Vegas. Authorities have said he faces at least one attempted murder charge. Records do not indicate if he has a lawyer who could speak on his behalf.

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.