Mayhem left its mark
One month after fatal mall shooting, woman still trying to process that fateful day.
William and Linda Sisco comfort each other as they pose for a photo at their On Top of the World home in Ocala, Fla. on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024. Linda was in Paddock Mall a month ago and William was waiting for her in the car when the shooting happened in Paddock Mall a month ago. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2024.
Linda Sisco still has fear in her voice as she describes the panic that engulfed her and other holiday shoppers as gunfire erupted in the Paddock Mall just days before Christmas.
“It was terribly frightening. No one knew where the shooter was. Everyone was trying to get out, people were pushing and knocked me down,’’ the 74-year-old said, adding, “Not one person put out their hand and said, ‘Can I help you?’”
Sisco recently met with the “Gazette’’ in her southwest Marion County home and shared her recollections of the shooting that left an Ocala man dead and a woman bystander wounded.
Nearly two weeks after the incident, police arrested Albert Shell Jr., 39. He was charged with premeditated first-degree murder in the death of local tattoo artist David Barron, 40, and attempted premeditated first-degree murder in the wounding of a woman bystander.
Sisco had gone to the Belk department store in the southern portion of the mall on the afternoon of Dec. 23 to pick up a shirt she had ordered online for her husband, William Sisco, who was waiting for her in their car in the mall parking lot.
At 3:40 p.m., Sisco called her husband and said she was on her way to their car after she saw people “running and screaming” and then heard an announcement over the PA system about an “active shooter” in the mall.
At first, Sisco said, she thought the ruckus was anything but a shooting in the crowded mall.
“In my naivety, I thought it was a flash mob to sing Christmas songs or something like that,” she said.
Once she realized what was happening, she tried to flee but her ailing knee made it difficult to navigate the surging crowd of frightened shoppers. Making matters more harrowing was that she was wearing a red Santa-type jacket which she said made her feel like she “had a target on my back.”
While she escaped the shooting uninjured, Sisco said the experience has left its imprint. The former Ms. Senior Michigan in 2015 and Ms. Senior South Carolina in 2020 and 2021 who, along with her husband operates Primetime Entertainment with Linda as vocalist, believes she likely suffered some degree of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder because of the incident and may seek counseling if her concerns persist.
“I definitely wouldn’t go to any crowded areas now,” she said.
Sisco added she feels somewhat “guilty” for feeling violated when one person died, one was wounded and many others actually witnessed the shooting.
She and her husband also take issue with official police statements that the shooting was “targeted,” saying that doesn’t take into account that the gunman was running through the mall firing a deadly weapon around a large number of people including little children.
The Ocala Police Department arrest affidavit provides this account of the shootings:
A mall surveillance video reviewed by an OPD officer showed the confrontation between the shooter and victim took place over a 149-foot section in the center of the mall starting near the food court and Chick-fil-A and ending with the victim fatally shot as he lay on the ground pleading for his life, according to a witness standing in the Kay Jewelers store.
The shooter later was identified as Shell by evidence including a store surveillance video and an eyewitnesss who told investigators the shooter had a teardrop tattoo under his left eye. The arrest affidavit notes Shell has a teardrop tattoo under his left eye.
In the video, Shell is seen at 3:38 p.m. walking with a second man who evidently was not involved in the shooting toward Barron near a Cricket kiosk near Chick-fil-A. At 3:39 p.m., Barron is seen in the video punching Shell before they separate and Barron heads toward Macy’s, in the western area of the mall facing College Road.
Shell is seen pursuing Barron with a handgun drawn. About 15 feet from their original meeting point, Barron falls and the video appears to show Shell firing a shot at him. The weapon appears to malfunction, Barron gets up, and the two go another 83 feet toward Starbucks as Shell appears to fire again.
Barron and Shell have a physical confrontation near Starbucks and then Shell runs 49 feet toward Macy’s then returns to fire a shot at Barron as he laid on the floor, which renders him motionless.
As the shooter returned to the vicinity of the Chick-fil-A, a person described as a retired police officer and an active duty Hawaiian police officer engaged Shell, who fled toward the J.C. Penney exit at the northern portion of the mall.
A total of seven shots can be heard on the video and the shooter dropped the weapon, a semi-automatic pistol called an FN Five-seven, from his pants as he fled. Investigators found 5.7-millimeter shell casings at the locations where Barron was seen being shot.
Shell was later arrested in southwest Marion County and jailed on no bond on the charges.
Amid the commotion at the mall, Linda and William Sisco fled the scene and stopped a few blocks away, embracing in tears.
Linda, a native of Jackson, Michigan and William, originally from southeast Iowa, met in Michigan and have been married for 25 years. William served in the Air Force from 1969 to 1989 and was a professor in occupational therapy at Grand Valley State College in Michigan while Linda was working as a vice president of a property management firm .
The couple retired to Myrtle Beach in 2016 and then moved to the Ocala area about three years ago.
While she was not one of those shot, Linda Sisco still feels Shell has harmed her in a profound way.
“(Shell) stole from me the naive belief that I safe was in public places,’’ she said.