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Shooting in a shopping center in Florida: one man killed, one woman injured

OCALA, Fla. (AP) — A man died in a shooting at a central Florida shopping mall two days before Christmas in which the victim was “targeted” for the attack, police said.

Ocala Police Chief Mike Balken told reporters Saturday evening that the man was killed after being shot multiple times in a common area at the Paddock Mall in Ocala, located about 80 miles (127 kilometers) north -west Orlando.

A woman was also shot in the leg. She was treated at a local hospital and is expected to recover, Balken said.

The suspect fled the scene and left the firearm behind, Balken said.

Police arrived at the mall around 3:40 p.m. after a call reporting multiple shots fired toward the mall.

“Officers immediately entered the mall (and) ultimately discovered it was not what we considered an active shooter,” Balken told reporters.

The attack was likely a “targeted act of violence” against the man, Balken said.

In this photo provided by the Ocala Police Department, a patrol car is parked following a fatal shooting at the Paddock Mall in Ocala, Fla., located about 80 miles northwest of Orlando, the Saturday, December 23, 2023. (Jeff Walczak/Ocala Police Department via AP)

Several other mall shoppers were injured in the shooting, with one person suffering chest pains and another reporting a broken arm, police said.

Ocala police released photos of a person of interest overnight that appear to have been taken by a mall security camera. All three images show a male with a red cap and dark clothing. Balken previously said the suspect was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and a mask partially covering his face.

Police also asked for the public’s help by submitting cellphone video of the shooting scene.

The company that owns the mall, WPG, said in a statement that it was working with the Ocala Police Department to investigate what happened.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy. Our hearts go out to everyone involved,” the statement said. “The safety of our customers, retailers and employees is our top priority. »

The mall has dozens of stores, including JC Penney and Foot Locker.

Calvin and Diana Amos, who were shopping at the JC Penney store, told the Ocala Star-Banner that they evacuated the store quickly once they realized what was happening. They describe themselves as scared and worried.

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