OCALA, Florida (AP) — Authorities in Central Florida issued an arrest warrant Sunday for a 39-year-old man accused of shooting and killing another man at a shopping mall two days before Christmas, in what police say was the victim. Was "targeted".
As of Sunday afternoon, the suspect had not been located, and the Ocala Police Department was offering a $5,000 reward for any information leading to his arrest. The police department said on social media that the arrest warrant was for premeditated first-degree murder and attempted premeditated first-degree murder.
The victim died after being shot multiple times in a common area of Paddock Mall in Ocala, about 80 miles (127 kilometers) northwest of Orlando, Ocala Police Chief Mike Balkan told reporters Saturday evening.
A woman was also shot in the leg. He was treated at a local hospital and is expected to recover, Balkan said.
The suspect fled the scene and left the gun behind, Balkan said.
Ocala police posted photos of a person of interest overnight that appear to be taken from a mall security camera. All three images show a man with a red hat and dark clothing. Balkan previously said the suspect was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and had a mask partially covering his face.
On Sunday, the police department urged the man who took the suspect's hat from the crime scene to hand it over to investigators or he would be charged with tampering with evidence.
"That hat may contain valuable DNA evidence, and we want it back," the Ocala Police Department said on social media. “We urge you to do the right thing and come forward immediately. Time is of the essence."
Police reached the mall around 3:40 pm on Saturday afternoon after receiving calls of multiple shots fired at the mall.
"Officers immediately entered the mall (and) ultimately determined that this was not what we would consider an active shooter," Balkan told reporters.
Balkan said the attack was likely a "targeted act of violence" against the man.
Police said several other mall patrons were injured during the shooting, including one man who suffered chest pain and another who suffered a broken arm.
Police have sought help from the public by submitting mobile phone video of the shooting scene.
The mall's corporate owner, WPG, said in a statement that they were working with the Ocala Police Department to investigate what happened. The mall was closed on Sunday, the day before Christmas.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy. “Our thoughts are with all those involved,” the statement said. “The safety of our guests, 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 As soon as they realized what was happening, they immediately evacuated the shop. He described himself as scared and apprehensive.