Victorville Shop Owner Who Shot Girl Instead Of Shoplifters Charged

Marqel Cockrell, the 20-year-old co-owner of the Sole Addicts shoe store at the Mall of Victor Valley in Victorville who opened fire on two shoplifters and wounded a 9-year-old girl in the process on April 13, has been returned to San Bernardino County to face three felony charges and two felony enhancements in the incident.
Cockrell, a 2020 graduate of Excelsior Charter Academy in Victorville who was lauded as hardworking young entrepreneur, in less than a fortnight has seen his life circumstance slide sideways following a moment of reckless reaction to himself being victimized.
Around 6:26 p.m. Cockrell was at work in Sole Addicts, which is located next to Solo Wear and near Macy’s, when he saw two customers steal merchandise. As he approached them, they fled. He gave chase and as they ran in a west-southwesterly direction down the mall corridor, he used a handgun to take aim and fire what is believed to have been four shots at them.
Ava Chruniak, 9, was standing in line to have her picture taken with an Easter bunny near a wide spot in that same corridor proximate to Stacy’s clothing store, Famous Footwear and Barnes & Noble. Reportedly, she suffered three wounds, two of them in her right arm.
“Cockrell’s shots missed the shoplifters and instead hit the 9-year-old female victim,” according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, which serves as the contract Victorville Police Department.
A call reporting gunfire at the mall went out at approximately 6:30 p.m.
Ava was with her mother, brother, sister and a cousin. They scurried after the shots were fired. An employee at Stacy’s clothing store ushered them into that shop and locked the door behind them. They hid in the storage room at the back of the store. Because Ava was bleeding, her mother and the storekeeper covered her arm with towels, primarily to keep her, her brother and her cousin from panicking at the sight.
An arriving paramedic team ministered to the girl, and she was then airlifted to Loma Linda University Medical Center.
Young Chruniak suffered what were essentially two flesh wounds to her right forearm and a third to her upper arm, which fractured her humerus.
At least eight sheriff’s vehicles responded to the mall, which was shuttered. With the mall’s stores locked down and customers sheltered inside, deputies searched for the shooter. Initially, it was believed that the shots had been fired in the course of an armed robbery. Within 45 minutes, however, deputies had learned that it was Cockrell who was responsible for the shooting.
Cockrell had left the mall almost immediately, before the first of the responding officers had arrived. He drove straightaway north and ultimately northeast on the Interstate 15 Freeway to Nevada. Upon his reaching the California/Nevada border, a license plate reader alerted the Nevada Highway Patrol of his approximate whereabouts and his heading. He was stopped less than two minutes later and arrested by the Nevada Highway Patrol at about 9 p.m. in Primm, Nevada, just across the state line in Clark County.
Cockrell, 20, appeared in Las Vegas Justice Court before Senior Judge James Bixler on Thursday, April 14. He waived extradition to California.
At Loma Linda University Medical Center, surgery on Ana Chruniak had to be delayed because of the need for her humerus, the bone in her upper arm, to set and heal. She was outfitted with a brace rather than a cast. She was released from the hospital on April 14, the same day Cockrell waived extradition. Ana must return for surgery next month. There remains a possibility she will not recover full use of her arm.
That reality and the consideration that one of the bullets fired by Cockrell missed her cousin’s head by no more than two inches has left Ana’s father, Charles Chruniak, Jr., upset, putting it mildly.
“Nobody in their right state of mind would run out in a crowded mall and pop shots,” he told the Los Angeles CBS affiliate.
Cockrell is now in custody at the High Desert Detention Center in Adelanto, the same city where his home is located. His bail, which was originally set at $1.3 million, now stands at $250,000.
He was arraigned on Monday, April 20 before Judge Arthur Benner II. He has been charged with five felonies: PC245(a)(2) assault with a firearm; PC12022.5(a) use of a firearm; PC12022.7(a) personal Infliction of great bodily injury; PC246.3(a) willful discharge of a firearm with gross negligence; PC25850(a) carrying a loaded and unregistered handgun on one’s person or in a vehicle. He pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
A little more than two years ago, Cockrell was yet in high school, where he was a point guard on the basketball team that played in the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section 2020 Boys’ Basketball Championships Division 5AA Tournament.
By all accounts, Cockrell has been earnest in his entrepreneurial endeavors. Last year, in May 2021, he utilized his status as a sole proprietor with an unspecified enterprise located in Adelanto to obtain a coronavirus-related $20,666 Paycheck Protection Program loan through Benworth Capital backed by the Small Business Administration.
Both shoplifters who precipitated the incident remain at large.
-Mark Gutglueck

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