Ocala mall shooting suspect arrested two weeks after deadly attack

Police confirm that the suspect and the victim had a prior relationship before the murder took place

Amelia Neath
Monday 08 January 2024 16:23 GMT
Ocala Paddock Mall shooting suspect arrested

The suspect wanted for a fatal shooting at a Florida mall just before Christmas has finally been arrested, almost two weeks since the attack.

The Ocala Police Department announced in a post on X on Monday that Albert J Shell Jr, 39, had been taken into custody in connection to the shooting at Paddock Mall, Ocala.

“The Ocala Police Department, in collaboration with the United States Marshals Service (Florida Caribbean Regional Fugitive Task Force), has apprehended Albert Shell Jr, the murder suspect involved in the deadly shooting at the Paddock Mall that occurred on 23 December,” the department said.

Mr Shell was found at a house 20 miles south-west of Ocala in the Florida Highlands area, chief of police Mike Balken said at a press conference on Monday, noting that well over 100 tips regarding the shooting helped police find and arrest him.

Police had the suspect’s whereabouts pinned down at around 1am on Monday morning and surrounded the property.

It took police two hours to negotiate with Mr Shell until he ultimately surrendered .

Mr Shell had been wanted on charges of premeditated first-degree murder and attempted premeditated first-degree murder for the deadly shooting of 40-year-old David Nathaniel Barron the weekend before Christmas.

The gunman and the victim had a prior relationship with each other; Mr Balken described what went down between them as “beef between two individuals”.

The police chief did not go into any motives behind the attack at the press conference, yet they said that from the early days of the investigation the shooting was a “targeted act” – with Mr Barron the intended target.

A woman was also shot in the attack, and was briefly hospitalised with non-life-threatening injuries to her leg, but is on her way to full recovery, Mr Balken confirmed.

He added that she did not know the victim or the suspect prior to the attack and was just an innocent bystander.

Several others were injured in the chaos, with one person suffering chest pain while another said they broke an arm, according to CBS News.

Mr Balken said that the arrested suspect “is responsible for one of the more heinous acts that we’ve seen in Ocala in a long time”.

“His criminal history alone tells me that he should never have been on the street to have been able to commit this crime, and we’re going to see to it that he serves the rest of his life behind bars,” he added.

On 23 December, a gunman opened fire at around 3.40pm at Paddock Mall while locals were doing last-minute Christmas shopping.

By 4.20pm, authorities announced that the shooting was no longer active and that the suspect had fled the scene on foot, leaving a firearm behind.

Law enforcement officials announced they were looking for a suspect dressed in all black, white sneakers, and a red cap and a mask partially covering his face.

The shooting was “the worst thing we can imagine this time of the year,” police said at a press conference at the time.

Albert J Shell Jr surrendered almost two weeks after the mall killing
Albert J Shell Jr surrendered almost two weeks after the mall killing (Ocala Police)

Earlier in their investigation, police warned the person who took the suspect’s red cap from the scene of the crime to return it immediately, saying that the hat could contain vital DNA evidence.

“We urge you to do the right thing and come forward immediately,” police said.

Mr Shell was later identified as the suspect with the public urged to come forward with any information.

A $5,000 reward for information leading to his arrest was increased to $20,000 just before the arrest was made. Mr Balken expects the reward to be paid out now he has been captured.

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