Police are searching for a suspect after a deadly shooting at a Florida mall

Dec 24, 2023, 4:08 PM

An Ocala Police Department vehicle is seen outside the Paddock Mall on Saturday. (Alan Youngblood, ...

An Ocala Police Department vehicle is seen outside the Paddock Mall on Saturday. (Alan Youngblood, the Star-Ban//USA Today Network/Reuters)

(Alan Youngblood, the Star-Ban//USA Today Network/Reuters)

(CNN) — Police continue to search for the person suspected of opening fire inside an Ocala, Florida, mall, on Saturday, killing one person and wounding another on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Ocala Police Chief Mike Balken on Saturday said police believe the shooting was a targeted act of violence. One man – identified as 40-year-old David Nathaniel Barron – was found dead from gunshot wounds in a common area inside the mall, police said, while a woman wounded in the leg is expected to survive.

The suspect fled the mall on foot after the shooting, police said Saturday, and Balken described him as a Black man wearing black pants, a hoodie and a black mask.

The incident unfolded at the Paddock Mall just two days before Christmas, on a day analysts expected to be second only to Black Friday thanks to consumers doing their last-minute shopping – further underscoring how pervasive gun violence has become in America as it seeps into nearly every venue of day-to-day life.

Indeed, as of Sunday morning, more than 42,000 people have died from guns in 2023, according to the Gun Violence Archive. More than 18,400 of them were the result of a homicide.

Early Sunday, police released several images of a “person of interest” in the case, asking members of the public if they could identify the individual, who was shown wearing dark clothes, white sneakers and a red hat.

Potentially a lot of witnesses

Balken acknowledged there were “a lot of people inside the mall” at the time of the shooting, “which means there’s a lot of witnesses that could potentially help us bring this case to a successful resolution.”

The Ocala Police Department has asked that anyone with footage of the shooting contact police to share it with detectives.

Police initially received a call around 3:40 p.m. about multiple shots fired, Balken said Saturday at a news conference. They responded with a heavy presence after that initial call described the incident as an “active shooter” scenario.

“Officers immediately made entry into the mall and ultimately discovered this was not an active shooter situation,” Balken said.

Police encountered the victims and recovered the gun they believe was used in the shooting, Balken said.

Syriah Williams was shopping with her mother at the mall when the shooting happened, the 18-year-old told CNN.

“We heard one shot then a pause then 3 other shots rang out and chaos erupted,” she said in a message, adding mall employees opened the back storage area and instructed everyone to run.

Washington Prime Group, Paddock Mall’s corporate owner, told CNN Sunday the mall will be closed on Sunday and Monday. The Ocala Police Department previously said the parking lot had reopened for people to retrieve their vehicles.

CNN’s Dakin Andone contributed to this report.

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Police are searching for a suspect after a deadly shooting at a Florida mall