Victorville

Good Samaritan Came to 9-Year-Old's Rescue After Girl Was Shot in Victorville Mall

The family released a picture of 9-year-old Ava Chruniak recovering in her hospital room after being shot multiple times Tuesday night as she waited in line for pictures with the Easter Bunny at Victor Valley Mall.

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The man accused of shooting a 9-year-old girl inside Victor Valley Mall was captured in Nevada, and investigators say he fired his gun at two shoplifters but ended up hitting the young girl instead.

The young girl is doing OK, family members said Wednesday.

For the first time, a good Samaritan who came to her rescue is speaking out, along with the girl's grandmother.

The family released a picture of 9-year-old Ava Chruniak recovering in her hospital room after being shot multiple times Tuesday night as she waited in line for pictures with the Easter Bunny at Victor Valley Mall.

The girl was visiting the Easter Bunny at a mall in Victorville when she was wounded. Beverly White reports for the NBC4 News on Tuesday, April 12, 2022.

"She has three gunshot wounds. Two are in the arm down here, and one is up here and this one fractured the bone," her grandmother Robin Moraga-Saldarelli said.

Moraga-Saldarelli says Ava had gone to the mall of victor valley with her brother, sisters, and her cousin Madeline. Ava's mom Natalie wanted Easter photos when suddenly gunfire erupted a few yards away. Natalie is deaf.

"She can hear a little bit out of one ear, and to her she thought it was a bomb," Moraga-Saldarelli said. "The bullet that hit Ava in the lower arm, missed Madeline's head by about an inch.

Courtesy of family

She says in the chaos that followed, Natalie courageously grabbed all four children and headed to safety.

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"And then we heard like four gunshots. We went to the front to close the doors and people started going to the back of the store," Stacy's clothing store employee Carlon said. He didn't want to be identified further.

He took video of the aftermath and said Ava and her family ran to the back storage room.

"She was sitting down and we had some towels over her so she wouldn't see the blood and get too scared, and we just told her, 'you are going to be OK, you're doing really good,'" Carlon said.

As paramedics rushed Avato the hospital, sheriff's investigators say deputies quickly learned who shot the gun.

They say the co-owner of Sole Addicts, shoe store inside the mall, opened fire on two shoplifters.

"His shots missed the intended target which were two suspects running out of his store with merchandise and struck the 9-year-old victim," said San Bernardino County Sheriff Public Information Officer Gloria Huerta.

Investigators say the accused shooter, 20-year-old Marquel Cockrell, immediately left the scene, but several hours later officers found him.

"He was spotted on the freeway near state line. Nevada authorities took him into custody without incident," Huerta said.

"I'm glad they caught him and he will definitely pay for this. I really hope they throw the book at him because you can't go shooting in a mall especially when there's a lot of children in there with the Easter Bunny," the victim's grandmother said.

She said her family can now focus their attention on Ava's recovery which will be long and difficult.

"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," Moraga-Saldarelli said.

Cockrell is in the process of being extradited back to California. His bail has been set at $1 million .

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