Authorities in central Florida have issued an arrest warrant for a 39-year-old man, Albert J. Shell Jr., in connection with a fatal shooting at Paddock Mall in Ocala, just two days before Christmas. The victim, 40-year-old David Nathaniel Barron, was targeted in what police believe was a premeditated act of violence.
The Ocala Police Department, offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to Shell’s arrest, has charged him with premeditated first-degree murder and attempted premeditated first-degree murder. Despite an intensive manhunt, Shell had not been located as of Sunday afternoon.
The incident unfolded on Saturday around 3:40 p.m. when multiple shots were fired at the mall, prompting a swift response from law enforcement. Barron was shot multiple times in a common area of the mall, and a woman also suffered a gunshot wound to the leg but is expected to recover.
Ocala Police Chief Mike Balken revealed that Shell fled the scene on foot, leaving behind the firearm used in the shooting. Police are urgently seeking the public’s help in locating Shell, and they have posted images of a person of interest—wearing a red cap and dark clothing—captured by mall security cameras.
In a unique plea, the police department urged an individual who took Shell’s hat from the crime scene to turn it over to investigators promptly. They emphasized the potential DNA evidence on the hat, warning that failing to return it could lead to charges of tampering with evidence.
Police arrived at the mall, where panicked patrons reported multiple shots, and entered to find that it was not an active shooter situation. Several mallgoers suffered injuries, including one person with chest pain and another with a broken arm.
The mall, owned by WPG, remained closed on the day before Christmas as the investigation unfolded. WPG expressed deep sadness over the tragedy, emphasizing the prioritization of safety for guests, retailers, and employees.
Witnesses Calvin and Diana Amos, who were shopping at J. C. Penney, described evacuating the store quickly and expressed fear and apprehension in the wake of the incident.
As the investigation continues, police are urging anyone with mobile phone video footage of the shooting scene to come forward. The community is asked to remain vigilant, cooperate with authorities, and contribute any information that may aid in Shell’s swift apprehension. The tragedy has cast a shadow over the holiday season in Ocala, prompting reflection on the importance of community safety.