1 dead, 1 injured in shooting at Florida shopping mall, police say
Dec 23, 2023, 4:33 PM | Updated: 6:21 pm
(CNN) — One man is dead, and a woman is injured after a shooting inside an Ocala, Florida mall Saturday afternoon, according to Ocala Police Chief Mike Balken.
Balken said police received 911 calls about multiple shots fired inside the Paddock Mall. He added the call came in describing an “active shooter” scenario, so they responded with a heavy police presence.
“Officers immediately made entry into the mall and ultimately discovered this was not an active shooter situation,” Balken said.
Police instead characterized the shooting incident as a targeted act of violence, Balken said.
Paddock Mall in Ocala was evacuated and there is no longer a threat, police said in a Facebook post.
The chief confirmed one adult male was found dead inside the mall from gunshot wounds. Balken said one woman suffered a gunshot wound to her leg. He said she was transported to a hospital, adding she is expected to survive.
Police are still searching for the suspect, who was described as a Black male wearing a black hoodie, black pants and a black mask over his face, Balken said.
“Please avoid the area as police investigate,” officials said in the Facebook post. In a tweet after the news conference, Ocala PD posted on X, formerly Twitter, said they are conducting a “secondary sweep” of the mall Saturday evening.
Syriah Williams, 18, told CNN she was shopping with her mother at the mall when the shooting happened. “We heard one shot then a pause then 3 other shots rang out and chaos erupted,” she said in a message. Williams said mall employees opened the back storage area and instructed everyone to run.
Williams made her way through the storage area and down a hallway that led to a back exit, she said.
WPG, owners of the Paddock Mall issued a statement Saturday night following the shooting:
“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy. Our thoughts are with all those involved. The safety of our guests, retailers and employees is our top priority. We are working closely with the Ocala Police Department as they investigate this incident.”
Gun violence deaths are approaching 42,000 for the year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Communities large and small across the country are searching for ways to curb the violence, as state-level efforts to regulate firearms in California, New York, Maryland and elsewhere have failed in court.
The shooting occurred at a shopping mall on one of the busiest shopping days of the year, second only to Black Friday, analysts said. With the holiday falling on a Monday and online orders unlikely to arrive by Christmas Day, in-person shopping at brick-and-mortar stores was expected to be up sharply from past years.